The Department of Nursing formally welcomed the Class of 2021 on October 6, 2017 with its fifth annual White Coat Ceremony in Ira Allen Chapel. The rite of passage marks commencement of undergraduate and direct-entry graduate students’ nursing careers and features the distribution of symbolic white coats worn by health care staff worldwide.
Rosemary Dale, chair of the Department of Nursing, remarked that the white coat is not only a uniform, but “a material symbol of the promise that each wearer has made to each and every patient whom he or she encounters: the promise to heal and to care.”
Guest speaker Linda Andrews ’69 described her career as an international public health nurse, working with women and children in Asia and India. She conveyed the importance of interprofessional collaboration, encouraging students to respect the needs other professionals, listen actively and develop positive relationships with peers.
“I have loved my career in the U.S. and abroad. It is now up to you, the next generation of nurses, to carry on this work. It is incredibly rewarding,” Andrews said.
Barbara Murphy ’47, a graduate of UVM’s first class of nurses, led the students in reciting the ceremonial oath. They pledged to act with compassion, exercise sound professional judgement and protect the health, safety and rights of patients.
Family and friends applauded as the 113 first-year undergraduates and 17 graduate students crossed the stage single file to receive their coats from nursing professors. Afterward, Dale coached the students on the importance of solidarity and community among nurses and asked them to locate someone near them with whom they can form a close relationship for the next four years and throughout their careers. She then instructed them to reach into the pockets of their new white coats and find a pin. Donated by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the pins feature a gold Mobius loop symbolizing the continuous bond of trust and respect connecting healthcare professionals to each other and their patents.
Each coat pocket also contained card with a message of encouragement written by a College of Nursing alumnus. One note, written by Donna Loso Hayes ’81, read:
“Congratulations! This is the beginning of an extremely rewarding career for you. There is no better feeling than being able to comfort another person, whether at the beginning of life, during a crisis, or at the end of life. May nursing always be your passion, caring with compassion!”
During the ceremony, Barbara Gardner ‘62 received the Janet T. Austin Nursing Alumnus Award for her longtime volunteer commitment to the UVM Nursing program. Gardner's dedicated donations support UVM nursing students attending annual National Student Nursing Association conferences, and she serves on the CNHS Advisory Board and UVM regional alumni board for the Boston region.
The award surprised Gardner, as did seeing her daughter and grandchildren, who came from California for the event. In her speech, Gardner remarked on the difficult years of study and hard work that lay ahead for the class and shared highlights of her 55-year career in public health.
She wished them luck and assured them, “It is so cool to be a nurse!”