CHICOPEE — Elms College School of Nursing held a white-coat ceremony Dec. 8 to honor students in the college’s DNP (doctor of nursing practice) class of 2018 as they move from the classroom into clinical practice training. The 23 students, who started in fall 2015, will begin their clinical training in January.
“This ceremony formally acknowledges that our DNP students are moving on to the clinical practice arena, and into their advanced nursing-specialty courses,” said Teresa Kuta Reske, director of program operations for the DNP program at Elms College.
“The white-coat ceremony is a traditional rite of passage for medical students as they transition into their residency. Now that nurse practitioners are having parity with those professions, we’re adopting the same tradition,” said Jean Pelski, director of Advanced Clinical Practice for the DNP program at Elms.
The white-coat ceremony included opening remarks from the dean of the School of Nursing, as well as readings, speeches, a pledge/oath, a blessing of the coats, and the presentation of the coats to the students.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Michael Bailin, who is chair of the anesthesiology department at Baystate Medical Center, a member of the Elms DNP faculty, and a member of the program’s advisory council. Bailin emphasized the vital role nurses play in healthcare, adding that DNPs will be even more important as the healthcare system continues to evolve.
The DNP degree is a clinical practice doctorate in an advanced specialty of nursing practice. DNP graduates will be eligible to sit for advanced certification and licensure in one of two specialty tracks: family nurse practitioner or adult-gerontology acute-care nurse practitioner.
Most local programs educate advanced practice nurses at the master’s level, but Elms College now educates them at the doctorate level, Reske pointed out. The college has partnered with local hospital systems — Baystate Medical System and Berkshire Health Systems — to fund cohorts of nurses from those institutions to fill critical roles now and into the future.
“The Elms College DNP program addresses the growing need for advanced practice nurses in adult and family care as the population ages and the demand for primary care continues to grow,” said Kathleen Scoble, dean of the School of Nursing. “This helps us to fulfill our mission and vision to serve our community by educating professional nurses.”