Saturday, October 15, 2016

White Coat Ceremonies for Nurses

I was shocked when I learned a local nursing school was holding a white coat ceremony to honor their students  entry to actual clinical practice. Excuse me, but nurse's have a historical and rich tradition and it has nothing to do with those microorganism infested white coats that those high and mighty  doctors wear.  Did you ever hear the term "white coat hypertension?"  It's called that for a reason. White coats do not communicate the comfort and  caring image that nurses bring to the bedside, especially for cranky oldsters like myself. Let the MDs keep their filthy  white coats. Nurse's have something a whole lot better that has real traditional and symbolic  meaning.

It's called capping and any diploma school graduate can attest to the emotional and spiritual elements of a candlelit capping ceremony. Yes, I know that nurses no longer wear caps, but that is no excuse for abandoning one of the time honored and sacred of  nursing traditions. Delivery personnel no longer utilize horses, but truck drivers continue the tradition of belonging to the Teamsters Union. Priests conduct Mass in electrified buildings, but continue to use candles.

Just because nurses no longer wear caps, it's not OK to abandon decades of tradition. You do not throw the baby out with the bath water and then like a parasite attach one self to a physicians white coat. It's just plain wrong and a slap in the face to oldfoolish RN's like myself. Capping is the name of the ceremony that marks a nurses advancement to actual bedside practice. It's been like that for many decades. Why monkey with a good thing?
Let's see you whippersnapperSNs come up
with a White Coat Ceremoy card that has
the charm of this 1950's gem that cost the
princely sum of 15 cents!
Recent  history shows that nursing , especially you academic types, likes to "borrow" ideas from other professions and incorporate them into a nursing context. What the devil is "nursing research?"
Nurses should be doing clinical based research like physicians, pharmacists, and other health professionals are doing. We  don't hear of "doctor research" or "pharmacist research." It's called clinical research and it's done for patients. Borrowing ideas and traditions from others, especially those that poorly reflect traditional nursing values  leads us down that rabbit hole of lost identity.

Soon we become utilization review nurses or computer   nurses whose only preoccupation is generating business or saving insurance companies money. What distance have  we put between the nurse and bedside? I don't think this is progress.

I apologize for my uncouth ranting, my arthritis is driving me nuts today. I have a few higher minded posts in mind for the future so please be patient. Thanks for reading my foolishness.


  1. I'm with you oldfool. I wonder what will happen when there are no longer any nurses at the bedside.

  2. Not an RN, but the daughter of one. Mom still has her cap wrapped carefully on the top shelf of her closet. She did not wear the cap (or the white hose -- anyone recall that?)during the latter part of her career, but that cap and the pin (which WAS worn on her uniform) are precious to her.
    As a patient, I wish that there was more distinction in uniforms. Am I talking to an RN or someone from transport? Who (at least which professional) is binging me my meds? Who is strapping my legs down in the OR? (Why?)
    Don't talk about name tags. Most of you in hospital have them turned so the pt (me) can't read them. Distinctive uniforms would at least tell me, the sick and scared one, if you are an RN, LPN, transport, surgical tech, etc.
    Sorry oldfool, you started another rant from the gurney.

  3. Thanks angel and Ms. Donna. I was unsure that anyome would agree with my old school cap values. I'm afraid that members of the present day academic/nurse office sitter establishment will have the final say on this matter even though the patient's bedside is the alter of nursing practice. Everything changes with time.

  4. My mother and all her sisters were RNs. I can't imagine any of them going for a pointless white coat. (I'm a physician, and won't wear mine--they are microbe magnets. I have fond memories of detouring on the way home from school to pick up my mom's cap at the laundry (the only item she ever sent out), and I always had to sneak a peek at its beautiful starched whiteness. And I still have her nursing school pin. MsDonna--our hospital has gone to one color scrubs for RNs and only RNs. I don't like the color, and I miss the seasonal-themed scrubs, but it IS a lot easier to figure out who's a nurse and who's not.

  5. Each diploma school had it's own unique cap and laundering method. I described the bathtub scrub / headboarding technique used at our school in an old post "Nurse's Cap Folding-An Ancient Tutorial." It pops up if you search for it. I'm not smart enough to figure out links! Thanks Old Doc, it's always great to hear from you.

  6. From a PA student's perspective:

    Many think the white coat is an exciting status symbol, one that conveys trust and knowledge to patients, one that is a mark of the grueling rigor of the didactic course, and is proud to don theirs at the White Coat Ceremony as is they worked their ass off an earned it. The excitement dies down when you start clinical rotations in July, it is nearly 100 degrees outside, you're rounding in the hospital across 12 floors on patients who want to keep their room temperature at 85 degrees, and you realize the synthetic material of the coat makes you feel like you're wearing a down jacket as you power walk from room to room. 2 weeks later, you notice the lovely gray dinge along the cuffs and collar from the sweat and dirt, and your fervent scrubbing can't release the stains. You sit down in a chair to chart or read about your patients, and all the crap you have in your pockets for "downtime studying" (hahahah. deep breath. HAHAHAHAHAHA) gets caught in the arms of the chair and falls out all over the floor.

    There is one upside to the white coat - it can nicely hide all the weight I gained during the didactic period of PA school.

  7. The last time I visited my neuro doc he was wearing a Steelers jersey. When I complemented him on his attire, he admitted to being an indifferent fan, but the jersey helped him relate to patients. Anything Steelers creates an instant connection here in Pittsburgh, at least more than a white coat. Thanks for reading my foolishness, PAS1.

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  9. We had a graduation ceremony where we received our veils (student nurses wore caps, but you waited three long years for that coveted, beautiful, impractical white starched veil that marked you out as a State Registered Nurse (and entitled you to the title "Sister" before your name. And you got your hospital badge proudly pinned to the front of your apron!

    Yes I know it all dates back to when nurses were nuns but receiving that veil and that ceremony was the culmination of three years of hard work and you knew you were finally a qualified nurse and the veil made you stand out as one...

    Agree with you OFRN, they threw all the good old traditions out with the bad ones. Now the graduates just put on a mortar board and black gown like an Arts graduate - they don't look like nurses any more. Sad. Just for one special occasion couldn't they have kept the veil and badge and graduation ceremony? Sue

  10. We longed for our pins just like you coveted veils. I've been meaning to write about some unusual nursing pins I've come across. We did not have veils but the classes before me were awarded beautiful dark blue capes. My Mom had one and I wore it as a child pretending to be Batman.