DANVILLE, Va. — Averett University added yet another meaningful tradition to its end-of-year roster of celebrations as it hosted its first-ever nurse practitioner white coat ceremony – an event following the annual Nurse Pinning Ceremony for the 2021 nursing graduates.
During the 2021 National Nurses Week, the University’s School of Nursing held both ceremonies on May 7 at Averett’s Riverview Campus downtown.
At 11 a.m., the pinning ceremony honored and celebrated 16 students who have successfully completed their Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree and will officially graduate from Averett tomorrow. The ceremony stems from centuries of tradition, and includes many significant symbols, from nursing caps and pins, to lamps and anointed oil.
“You were called to be a nurse because you see nursing as an opportunity to help people in need. That is your essence, I feel certain,” Averett President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks told the graduates.
“The people you will be serving are all in need of help,” she continued. “It calls for deep, deep commitment and selflessness. You will help with compassion, skill, knowledge and a sympathetic ear. You epitomize all that nursing is about.”
Graduates from Averett’s 2021 BSN program have secured jobs in health care facilities across Virginia, North Carolina and even Tennessee. The ambitious group is entering into a diverse range of nursing areas, including general medicine, emergency medicine, labor and delivery, intensive and critical care, surgical oncology, pediatrics, neurology, perioperative and more. Many have hopes to continue their education by obtaining their master’s and doctorate nursing degrees, as well as pursue a number of additional, specialty certifications in areas like emergency nursing and paramedic training, among others. A couple of them are parents, and one is even a grandparent.
“It’s hard work – a lot of hard work, said graduating BSN senior Savanna Joyce. “Honestly, l sometimes didn’t think that I could do it…but to get to this point is amazing and I’m very proud of myself.”
The nursing pin the graduates were presented in today’s ceremony denotes the nursing school from which one has graduated, and the ceremony welcomes new nurses into the profession. In addition, the nursing cap worn by each graduate – except the one male in this graduating class – has been part of the female nurse’s uniform since the early history of nursing, representing a hygienic and professional look. Today, it serves as a universal symbol of nursing care and kindness.
In an equally symbolic ceremony, the University kicked off a new White Coat Ceremony tradition at 1 p.m. – one that has been held among medical schools for decades, but is becoming a growing trend among nursing schools with master-level, advanced practice nursing programs.
Normally conducted prior to a family nurse practitioner (FNP) student’s first clinical experience, Averett invited members of all three cohorts of its recently established Master of Science in nursing program to participate since 2020 didn’t allow for in-person ceremonies. Eight students participated.
“Today’s honorees are indelibly etched in Averett history as our inaugural MSN ‘White Coaters,’” said Franks. “In the years to come, there will be many more of these white coat ceremonies, but there can never be another first.”
When a faculty member cloaks the students with their white coat, it marks the beginning of their advanced practice nursing career, and indicates the faculty believes in their ability to carry on the tradition of the advanced practice nursing profession.
“From this day forward, every patient you meet will be a new experience and will teach you about healing, illness, hardship and human emotion. This ceremony marks the induction into the advanced nursing practice profession and the transition to becoming a part of the clinical team,” said Dr. Ryan Mallo, associate professor in Averett’s School of Nursing’s graduate nursing program.
According to Mallo, there are now more than 350,000 advanced practice nurse practitioners across the country who are certified to practice and deliver primary care. Averett’s
MSN student Caroline Hoover has been working as a critical care nurse for 25 years, and has been working full time at Bon Secours in Richmond while pursuing her master’s. This milestone is exciting for her because it marks the transition into clinical work.
“Averett’s ability to place their students in clinical settings was one of the number one reasons I came here,” she said. “I’m very emotional. I didn’t realize how emotional I would be, but I’m very excited to get into the clinical portion; it’s an area where I want to be. The classroom is wonderful, but this is where I really want to be, in the clinical area.”
“You have successfully juggled demands of coursework, families and full-time work —not easily done at any time, and certainly not combined with the challenges of a pandemic — and I feel sure you all have experienced exponential growth during the first phase of this program,” said Franks. “Today marks a significant and symbolic moment in your academic career — celebrating your progression to the role of practitioner — and creates a psychological, intellectual and ethical contract between you and the profession… The white coat you will put on today marks the beginning of this journey; wear it with pride, with a sense of privilege, and most important, with humility.”