The Elms College inaugural class of doctor of nursing practice students recite an oath before receiving their white coats at a special ceremony held Dec. 16.

White Coat Ceremony Marks Milestone for DNP Students

The inaugural class of doctor of nursing practice students recited an oath after receiving their white coats at a special ceremony held Dec. 16.

White Coat Ceremony Marks Milestone for DNP Students

The Elms College School of Nursing held a white coat ceremony Dec. 16 to honor the college’s inaugural class of DNP (doctor of nursing practice) students as they move from the classroom into clinical practice training. The 39 students, who started in fall 2014, will begin their clinical training in January.

The DNP degree is a clinical practice doctorate in an advanced specialty of nursing practice. DNP graduates from Elms are eligible to sit for advanced certification and licensure in one of two specialty tracks: family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner.

“Students in our inaugural class are accomplished and experienced registered nurses with many years of experience in primary care, encompassing pediatrics to geriatrics, acute care, and intensive care across the lifespan,” said Jean Pelski '89, PhD, APRN, NNP-BC, director of advanced clinical practice for the DNP program at Elms. “They have earned this rite of passage, and we are recognizing them with the white coat.”

“This ceremony is a formal acknowledgement that our DNP students are moving into the clinical practice arena and into their advanced nursing specialty courses,” said Teresa Kuta Reske, DNP(c), MPA, RN, director of program operations for the DNP program at Elms College. Reske presented the DNP students with “Humanism in Medicine” pins -- gifts from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, which initiated the first white coat ceremony in 1993. “This pin is to be worn on the label of the white coat,” Reske added. “It is a symbol that our students will serve the health needs of society today and tomorrow, representing professionalism and humanism in all healthcare encounters.”

“Our mission at Elms College and our School of Nursing is to provide quality academic programs that meet the needs of our community,” said Kathleen Scoble, Ed.D., RN, dean of the School of Nursing. “We have looked and listened very hard over the years to see where the community’s healthcare workforce needs are, and we’ve evolved our nursing program to meet those needs -- all the while, first and foremost, committed to graduating nurses who are well prepared and qualified for the roles in which they will practice.”

Most local programs are educating advanced practice nurses at the master’s level, but Elms College educates them at the doctorate level. The college has partnered with local hospital systems -- Baystate Medical System and Berkshire Health Systems -- to fund cohorts of nurses from those institutions to fill critical roles now and into the future, but Scoble noted that the partnership is not limited to funding.

“Our partners from Baystate and Berkshire Medical Center have given input into our curriculum: They have worked with us in course development as context experts, they have taught our students already as expert lecturers, they’ve assisted us in identifying clinical training sites and faculty, and they have joined us as members of our new DNP advisory council, which we launched a few months ago,” Scoble said.

“Together with others, our discipline will lead the national healthcare system transformation, but as individuals we will look to you to lead locally. The commonwealth -- and, more specifically, this community -- needs you,” said keynote speaker Stephanie Ahmed, DNP, FNP-BC, the director of ambulatory nursing at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the president of the Massachusetts Coalition of Nurse Practitioners.

Ahmed cited long wait times for physician care in medical fields including family practice, cardiology, obstetrics and gynecology, and said that advanced-practice nurses will help to expedite access to care for those who need it. “You will make the difference in Hampden County,” she told the students. “The patients truly need you.”

“I cannot think of a more fitting location than the ministry of nursing to exemplify both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and I am grateful that we have so many women and men preparing to spend their lives caring for others with compassion and professional expertise,” said Elms College President Mary Reap, IHM, Ph.D.

“You are leading the way as DNP students,” Scoble told the students. “You will lead the way as nurse practitioners. And you will make a significant difference in the health and well-being of the citizens you will care for in Western Massachusetts and beyond. You are the future we need.” 

In addition to speeches, the DNP white coat ceremony included a pledge/oath, a blessing of the coats, and the presentation of the coats to the students. The ceremony was made possible with a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to support the Gold-AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) White Coat Ceremony for Nursing.

About the Arnold P. Gold Foundation
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation is a public, not-for-profit organization that works with healthcare professionals in training and in practice to instill a culture of respect, dignity and compassion for patients and professionals. It was established in 1988 by Arnold Gold, M.D.; Sandra Gold, Ed.D.; and their colleagues at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons in New York.

About the AACN
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is the national voice for baccalaureate and graduate nursing education. AACN works to establish quality standards for nursing education; assists schools in implementing those standards; influences the nursing profession to improve health care; and promotes public support for professional nursing education, research, and practice.