B.S.N. Students Receive White Coats at Ceremony

The School of Nursing welcomes 83 aspiring health professionals to the George Washington University.

School of Nursing
A student in the School of Nursing's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program receives her white coat during a ceremony held Thursday. (William Atkins/GW Today)
August 28, 2015

By Lauren Ingeno

For Steven Rozecki, the progression from the U.S. Navy to a career in nursing seemed natural.

As a member of the United States Naval Construction Forces (NCF) for eight years, Mr. Rozecki helped to build schools, improve infrastructure and train locals on advanced construction methods in the Southern Philippines.

“I think it’s important to be doing something that, at the end of the day, you are proud of,” said Mr. Rozecki, a student in the George Washington University School of Nursing’s Veterans Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program. “That’s what I did when I was in the Navy. So it just seemed like a very smooth transition for this type of work, really.”

Mr. Rozecki was one of 83 B.S.N. students cloaked in laboratory coats at the School of Nursing’s third White Coat Ceremony Thursday at Jack Morton Auditorium. The event marked the beginning of the students’ nursing education and signified a commitment to providing “compassionate, patient-centered care” throughout their careers.

“Today is a milestone in your life,” said School of Nursing Dean Pamela Jeffries. She challenged the incoming students to maintain the idealism that led them to nursing school, to enjoy the support of their new colleagues, to seek help from faculty and to be true to the special relationships that nurses have with their patients.

“As you bare witness to birth, struggle and death, may the heroism of your patients and their families fill you with wonder and enhance your growth and development,” she said.

The first-ever White Coat Ceremony for new medical students was at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993. The rite of passage is now commonplace at medical schools throughout the country, but no such coordinated effort existed to bring similar events to schools of nursing until 2014. Last year, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation (APGF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) provided funding for 100 nursing schools, including GW’s, to host their own ceremonies for future nurses.

The new nursing students honored at Thursday’s ceremony included those in the Accelerated B.S.N., the Veterans B.S.N. and the W2 scholarship programs. (William Atkins/GW Today)

The white coat represents the “best self” that nurses should bring to work every single day, said Billinda Tebbenhoff, the School of Nursing’s associate dean for undergraduate studies.

“When you first put this on, you think, ‘I don’t know enough yet.’ Get used to that, because that will last your whole life,” she said. “But just think about putting on your best self. Your most caring self. The self that you would want if someone was caring for you or your family.”

The new nursing students honored at Thursday’s ceremony included those in the Accelerated B.S.N., the Veterans B.S.N. and the W2 scholarship programs. The Accelerated B.S.N. program is an intensive, 15-month path for students who already have earned a bachelor’s degree in another field. The veterans option provides special counseling and academic credit for certain military training and experiences—an attractive choice for students like Mr. Rozecki who wanted to return to his home state of Virginia and called GW “very vet-friendly.”

W2 is a partnership between the School of Nursing and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Students in the W2 path earn their B.S.N. at GW, fulfill their clinical rotations at the Hospital Center and are guaranteed employment at MedStar upon successful completion.

As the 83 students from diverse academic and personal backgrounds came together Thursday, some chattered nervously about their 20-credit semester course load, while others expressed excitement about their upcoming clinical rotations.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping my community. And by starting my clinical rotation at GW Hospital, I’ll still be helping my community, this time in a more professional way,” said Sophia Motta, an Accelerated B.S.N. student from Chevy Chase, Md., who majored in biology and psychology as an undergraduate at Loyola University. “I know I’m going to learn things unlike anything I’ve learned before.”

School of Nursing Dean Pamela Jeffries addresses new nursing students Thursday. She advised them to "be true to the special relationships that nurses have with their patients." (William Atkins/GW Today)


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