Nursing Science Dedication Ceremony Held

Junior-Year Nursing Students Honored with White Coats

by Kathe Brunton

As a 10-year-old in 2013, Monica Ugo ’25 eagerly watched her older cousin, a nursing student at Saint Mary’s, receive her white coat at the College’s Nursing Dedication Ceremony. Just starting her junior year, Monica’s cousin was a member of the class marking this milestone.

Ten years later, Monica said she would have never imagined that she would be similarly honored today.

On Saturday, October 7, Monica and 55 other Bachelor of Nursing Science (BSN) and seven Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students glowed as they received their white coats in a ceremony that was both solemn and uplifting.

“We think nursing is a calling,” said Sue Anderson, director of the Department of Nursing Science and DNP Program. “This is a very deeply religious ceremony that makes the students aware of the sacred nature of what they do as nurses.”

Held in the Church of Our Lady of Loretto, the Nursing Dedication Ceremony is beautifully comprised of songs, a procession of candle bearers and a cross bearer, and readings by students and faculty. Then, each student has her moment in the spotlight as a faculty member places the white coat over her shoulders and prays over her.

Families of the students attend and the joy is palpable. “My mom, my aunt, and my cousin—all are Saint Mary’s women, nursing grads,” said Monica. “My mom was crying before I even walked in.”

While receiving the white coat is a rite of passage, Saint Mary’s College takes the unusual step of bestowing the coats at the beginning of the students’ junior year instead of at graduation.

Junior year is when the student enters her clinical rotations. Her first two years are spent in prerequisites and simulation labs. In the clinical rotations, students spend time on site at a hospital or other clinical setting putting into real practice the tools and knowledge they have acquired. To receive their white coats now is a mark not only of their progress but of the faith the Department of Nursing has in them to continue their studies and perform true nursing work.

“In my first year, I thought that if I could make it to the ceremony, then I knew I could do it. And when they put the coat on me, I felt like this school cares about me. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I have moe motivation behind me now to keep going. I know I want to do this,” said Monica.

Nursing from a place of holiness

More than a milestone, the ceremony provides inspiration and energy for the coming two years prior to students graduating with their well-earned BSN degrees. The ceremony signifies a physical, emotional, and spiritual shift in their careers.

Student Magdalen France ’25 said, “I could feel God throughout the ceremony. It was not a Mass, but of course Jesus is still there in the tabernacle, and I felt the Holy Spirit the whole time.” The next week, wearing her white coat during a clinical rotation at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, she thought, “My hands and feet are Jesus. I’m doing his work.”

For Anderson, the Nursing Dedication Ceremony still gives her goosebumps. “It’s a beautiful, sacred ceremony. It’s such an honor to see these young adults go out into the world and do great things. And they’re doing it in a way that honors the mission of Saint Mary’s College. That so impresses me.”

She recalled a recent phone call from the daughter of an elderly woman who had been cared for by a Saint Mary’s College nursing student: “The daughter said she had never seen anything like the respect and dignity the student displayed for her mother. That’s what we like to think we do for our students—that they are genuinely caring for patients from a place of holiness for the people they encounter.”

October 20, 2023

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