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Studying to be a nurse can be tough, challenging and rewarding all at the same time. One of the rewards comes when junior nursing students are honored at the White Coat Ceremony as they start their clinical work in hospitals and health care centers. Fifty-six Caldwell University nursing students hit that milestone Thursday, Sept. 7, when they received their white coats and their Humanism in Medicine pins.

Dr. Brenda Petersen, associate dean of the School of Nursing and Public Health, greeted the audience of students, faculty, staff, family members and friends who gathered for the joyful occasion. Addressing the students she said, “You commit yourselves today to the service to others and to work toward the greater good for all.”

Dr. Kathleen Kelley, assistant director and associate professor in the School of Nursing and Public Health, told the juniors that their white jackets symbolize their professional identity and will remind them of the ideals that have always characterized professional nursing such caring and compassion toward the people they serve. “It is personally delivered by your faculty as a gift of faith, confidence and compassion. The oath that you take today binds you to that professional commitment toward patient-centered care,” said Kelley of the pledge the students read as they accepted the responsibilities of the nursing profession.

Senior Natalie Pedri gave a powerful talk about her journey in being diagnosed with a stage-four Wilms’ tumor, a pediatric cancer, and having to leave school for a year for surgery and treatment. During a self-assessment, which she had learned to perform in nursing class, she found the large mass that led her to get medical care. She said that having cancer allowed her to see nursing from a patient’s perspective and that she was grateful to the nurses who cared for her and to the supportive Caldwell nursing faculty, in particular Kelley, who had gone through breast cancer herself. “Being a patient wasn’t easy, but I learned that it’s the nurses that make the difference in your experience. They are the ones who advocate for you, are by your side 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and help you throughout the difficult time. I now know from my own experience the kind of nurse I want to be.”

Nursing junior Jewelz Lopez was moved by Pedri’s talk. “It made me feel more connected to my major, to what it is all about,” said Lopez.

Dr. Barbara Chesler, vice president for academic affairs, told the students that wearing the white coat is a sign that they take their professional choice seriously and that they understand the commitment they are making to themselves, to their families and to the Nursing Department. Acknowledging that there will be struggles, Chesler told the students they will meet those challenges. “You’ll rise because your strength as a nurse is not determined by one grade, one shift of one job. It’s an ongoing journey of learning, honor, humility and a chance to make even the smallest difference in the lives of your patients.”

The juniors were thrilled to receive their coats. “Glad to be on my way to achieving my dreams,” said Jacqueline Garcia. “Feels like the first day of the rest of my life,” said Lucia Siniscalchi. “Happy I made it this far,” said Akiel Morris. “So excited for everything. Hopefully I will be a good nurse,” said Sarah Koritam.

There were many proud parents in the audience. “So excited; it’s emotional. I was expecting this at the end of the two years,” said Siniscalchi’s mother, Maria.

The Humanism in Medicine pins are a gift from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, initiators of the White Coat Ceremony.

Director of Campus Ministry Colleen O’Brien gave the invocation and benediction.

Dr. Nan Childress Orchard, chair of the Music Department, provided the processional and recessional music.