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Caldwell, N.J., March 11, 2021 – Caldwell University honored its junior-level nursing students at its 7th Annual Gold-AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) White Coat and Blessing of the Hands ceremony.  Parents, family, friends, faculty and staff gathered virtually March 10 to celebrate with the students. 

Associate Dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health Dr. Donna Naturale pointed out that  these nursing students started their clinical expertise amidst the pandemic and during 2020, which was the international Year of the Nurse.  The ceremony, she said, represents the start of the clinical experiences for the students as they enter the nursing profession.  Several of the students had volunteered at the vaccine clinics over winter session, “being a part of history,” said Naturale.  Caldwell students are being prepared to meet the ever-changing challenges of healthcare today.   “We encourage our students to demonstrate the core values… through teaching students to care, respect individuals, maintain integrity, and integrate a sense of community in collaboration with others, demonstrating excellence and compassion at all times,” said Naturale.    

Caldwell President Matthew Whelan said “In our lifetime, there has never before been such a presence and such a focus on the vital work carried out by nurses around the world.” The healthcare industry and doctors cannot do their work without nurses.  “I can’t think of a more important role in the life cycle of human beings then that of the work the nurses do. That work is carried out by your hands.”

He said they pray that the students’ hands will be blessed and that the students will be blessed in everything they do. “And we ask you to go forward as representatives of Caldwell for the rest of your lives remembering that you have the Caldwell education under your belt, and that you represent the core values of respect, of integrity, of community, and of excellence in everything that you do.” In the end, said Dr. Whelan, “when you hold your hands together in prayer for yourselves, I hope you see the faces of the many, many lives you’ll touch, and the many, many lives you have touched, and when you do so, you will have seen God’s face.”

Nursing Student Ryan Rutano

Dr. Ellina Chernobilsky, acting vice president of academic affairs, said the Blessing of Hands offers nurses an opportunity to reflect on the purposes of their profession. “It gives nurses the validation that the work they are doing matters–matters to them, to patients and to the world…  today you are making a choice to become a nurse. Wear your coat with pride. Remember your commitment, your dedication, your integrity and your compassion make the world a better place, one patient at a time.”

Nursing Student Pinning Photo

Dr. Kathleen Kelley, director of undergraduate nursing education in the School of Nursing and Public Health, was the mistress of ceremonies.  “What defines a Caldwell University nurse is resiliency, professionalism and a desire to strive to give the best care to our community,” said Kelley. In these unprecedented times she often wondered if they were doing enough to prepare the students. “And I have found out that the answer is a resounding ‘yes.’” The seniors who graduated in December “in the midst of the pandemic, are thriving,” said Kelley.  They are “rendering care without missing a beat. They were prepared and they were ready.”  Over the last year the faculty have stressed to the students that they must advocate for the most vulnerable. “Nurses must be on the forefront leading to dispel and eradicate health care disparities in our community,” said Kelley. 

Several of the nursing faculty read the scripture readings.  Colleen O’Brien, director of campus ministry, gave the invocation. Sister Joanne Beirne, O.P., gave the opening prayer for the Blessing of the Hands.  Nan Childress-Orchard, professor of piano, provided the processional and recessional music.