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White Coat Ceremony is a First on New IHS Campus  

Nursing students at the IHS White Coat ceremonyFaculty and administration of the College of Nursing celebrated the first White Coat Ceremony welcoming new nurses at the Interprofessional Health Sciences (IHS) Campus on February 8. The White Coat Ceremony symbolizes the formal entrance into the healing professions where students don traditional white coats, have their hands christened and recite the ceremonial oath to uphold the highest standards in care and service to others.

Students from the traditional BSN, the accelerated second degree, and the master's entry clinical nurse leader programs along with their friends and families were greeted by messages of encouragement from former students shown on screens as they entered the auditorium. They were then led through the ceremonial blessing by Father Zachary Swantek, IHS campus chaplain, who stated that "the pursuit of a career in the art and science of nursing is among the noblest of professions. Allow your hearts, your minds and faith to guide your principals."

In her opening address, Dean Marie Foley stated that it was the sixth white coat ceremony conducted with the College of Nursing, a tradition founded in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation at Columbia University in order to provide unity and equality for all who enter the healing professions. She noted Gold's view of the 'caring and compassion piece' being formerly marginalized in favor of promoting technology as the driving force for his vision. With Gold's passing in January 2018, he was said to have left a legacy of love. Dean Foley added, "You are entering a profession rooted in humanism and caring. Today we encourage all gathered here to carry forward what Arthur P. Gold began. In the purest way possible - love the world."

Keynote speaker Maryann P. Hobbie, a former administrator in Immaculate Conception School of Theology, then tied the theme of the ceremony together by sharing her personal experience of how a catastrophic illness was made more bearable at the hands of nurses. Her speech was titled "A Love Letter To Nurses." It detailed her bizarre and completely unanticipated time as a quadriplegic through a freak medical occurrence – and the succession of nurses who went above and beyond to provide care, reassurance, an occasional shoulder to cry on, and the strength to fight despair and overcome the biggest obstacle of her life.

"One morning, I just woke up – and I was paralyzed," Hobbie began. It happened that quickly and uneventfully. Nevertheless, it changed her future. "I felt like Rip Van Winkle. One moment I was sleeping, and then I just lost all sense of time. Through it all, nurses in this audience were at my side. You were caring for someone disoriented, despairing, who was depending on you to help carry them through."

Hobbie then went on to acknowledge the long line of nurses who assisted her throughout her entire journey. Sam endeared herself by simply moving Hobbie's pillow in a way that didn't hurt. Only aides did that. Regardless, nothing was beneath her. When Hobbie found out that Sam was only 22 years old (and looked even younger), she was concerned whether such a young person was seasoned and mature enough to properly tend to a paralyzed patient with a tracheal tube and many other vital pieces of equipment keeping her alive. Sam gained her trust beyond training and expertise – she helped restore her dignity through the kind act of helping to groom her – literally – in the face of some very unkind drug interactions. "She was Jesus with skin on," claimed Hobbie.

Meredith was her nurse at Kessler Rehabilitation Center. She had been Christopher Reeves nurse during his time there. Hobbie figured that if she could care for Superman, she was definitely in good hands. Simon and Ray never wavered or compromised their duties or devotion, even in the face of an eighty-four year old woman who could not quite accept that her nurses were men, and made her prejudices very clear and very vocally.

When Hobbie, in an effort to confront her reality, asked one nurse if she was indeed a paraplegic, the answer was compassionate but direct: "Yes, Maryann. You are. But this just means you are going to need to work a little harder. This is not the end. You can rise above this."

Hobbie ended her speech by stating, "Nurses told me the truth. They gave me strength, they gave me resolve. I hope these stories inspire you to do the hard thing. But always do it with your heart – and do it with love."

Associate Dean Judith Lucas closed the proceedings by reminding students that humane, person-centered care should always remain at the forefront of their practice. It is one of many reasons why the Gallup Poll has promoted nursing as one of the most trustworthy professions for over thirteen consecutive years. It is also why ethical judgement is of paramount importance when confronted with difficult situations. According to Lucas, "This is what truly distinguishes Seton Hall nurses."

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