White Coats Symbolize New Students' Entry into Nursing Profession

A nursing student celebrates after donning his white coat.
Photo by Heidi Wells

A nursing student celebrates after donning his white coat.

University of Arkansas nursing students in their first semester started their first clinical assignments this week. The Eleanor Mann School of Nursing welcomed them into the profession with a white coat ceremony.

About 100 students crossed the stage Sept. 27 in the Verizon Ballroom in the Arkansas Union carrying a white coat to hand to a faculty member, who helped put it on them. Susan Patton, interim director of the nursing school, called the ceremony a rite of passage like graduation but in this case a beginning.

"Until now, you, as nursing students, have been learning in lectures and labs," Patton said. "Today, we mark a transition as you take your first steps into the clinical setting, where the patient is the ultimate teacher."

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation established the White Coat Ceremony in 1993 and the U of A was chosen to participate in 2014, when the foundation partnered with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to support a pilot program. This was the sixth time for the Eleanor Mann School of Nursing to take part.

"In return for your years of learning and your dedication to a life of service and your willingness to take an oath to that duty, society will give you access and rights that it gives to no one else," said Patton, who wore a white coat at the beginning of the ceremony. She put on a black commencement gown at the end to inspire the students toward their next rite of passage. "Society will allow you to hear secrets from frightened human beings that they are too scared to tell anyone else. Society will permit you to use drugs and instruments that can do great harm as well as great good, and so you have to be good."

Kristina Simpkins-Spain, a U of A alumna and registered nurse at Willow Creek Women's Hospital, also spoke to the students, and Lisa Franks, the simulation lab coordinator in the nursing school, led them in a pledge.


Heidi S. Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu


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