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Johns Hopkins School of Nursing White Coat Ceremony MF21_web
Associate professor Jill Hamilton, left, helps Jessica Fox, a first-year student in the bachelor of science in nursing program at Johns Hopkins University, into her white coat during the school's first formal White Coat Ceremony. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz).

Nurses get white coats, too

Move over doctors — it’s nurses’ time to shine.

For the first time, incoming nursing students across the country are participating in formal White Coat Ceremonies, a longtime rite of passage for medical students that’s less common for other health care professionals.

But attitudes are changing. Health care reform has ushered in a movement toward team-based care, an approach that puts registered nurses and advanced-practice professionals, like nurse practitioners, in an elevated role.

With that mind, the American Association of Colleges of Nurses and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation selected 100 schools to receive financial support and guidance in launching the formal cloaking ceremony.

It’s the first widespread, coordinated effort to include nursing students in the tradition, according to faculty at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, which held the ceremony Thursday afternoon.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore and Notre Dame of Maryland University were also selected to hold the ceremonies, which involve a formal cloaking of each student by a faculty member and the recitation of the “Nightingale Pledge,” the nursing oath.

The purpose of the White Coat Ceremony is to instill in the students “a commitment to providing compassionate care,” said Elizabeth Tanner, an associate professor of nursing at Hopkins and a speaker at Thursday’s event.

Several Hopkins nursing students said they understood the purpose of the nationwide push to expand the ceremony and that they appreciated the implications of doing so.

“Nurses have always kind of been in the background, but the profession is changing so that nurses are the ones who are leading in the hospital, the ones who are always there,” said 23-year-old Jessica Fox, one of 163 students in the incoming class. “So I think this is about giving us the recognition that we deserve.”

Fox, a native of Columbus, Ohio, also said she was grateful to be one of the first participants in what she hopes becomes a widespread ritual for nursing students.

“It’s pretty cool to be part of a new tradition here at the school,” she said.

Dara Moss, another first-year nursing student at Hopkins, said she thinks the health care industry has begun to value nurses more highly, particularly in terms of being essential members of a clinical team.

Hopkins’ nursing program, which totals 968 students, “integrates everything together, so that nursing students and medical students and pharmacy students get the change to interact,” Moss said.

“They’re really trying to foster that team atmosphere,” she said. “So I think [this ceremony] is a metaphor, a sort of symbolism of that approach.”