By Erika Neldner

Eighteen new student nurses were coated during the fourth White Coat Ceremony of the Cauble School of Nursing & Health Sciences Sunday afternoon.

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Family and friends filled the seats of Flint Hall at Falany Performing Arts Center to witness the next steps in their students’ educational careers.

The White Coat Ceremony is a relatively new ceremony used in several professions. At Reinhardt, students become student nurses in the ceremony, receive insightful wisdom from professionals in the field and are bestowed a blessing in the Blessing of the Hands portion of the ceremony performed this year by campus pastor, the Rev. Jamie Hudgins. Provost Mark Roberts shared a poem he was asked to write in honor of the White Coat Ceremony. “Handiwork” talks about the healing hands of nurses and the healing hands of a mother raising a child.

Keynote speaker Patricia Tyson, administrative director of the Heart & Vascular Institute for the Northside Health System, imparted pearls of wisdom on the new student nurses as they embark on their journey to be the healing hands of the community.

Tyson shared her experiences and what she has learned over her many years in nursing, including some humorous stories.

“The opportunities in nursing are numerous,” she said, listing many specialties available on which to focus.

She encouraged students to embrace their passion as a lifelong learner. Technology will change over the years, and nurses are expected to stay up-to-date on best practices and available technology in their respective fields. “Eighty-two percent of Americans rate nursing as the most trusted profession. What a responsibility,” she added.

That responsibility also comes when answering the call when off the clock. She recalled a flight she took from Atlanta to Los Angeles. A call came from over the loudspeaker asking for a medical professional. “You can wait after that first call to see who is coming, but you don’t ignore that second call.”

When the second announcement came, Tyson moved to the area where there was a lot of activity – the passenger was having chest pains, and Tyson knew it was a heart attack. With the only doctor on the plane being a veterinarian, she went to work. An emergency was declared, and the plane landed to ensure the passenger could get emergency medical treatment.

Tyson also expressed to the student nurses the importance of self-care. She explained how Northside Health System recently implemented a program to ensure its health care professionals were exercising, getting enough sleep and eating well. Tyson said it was through that program that she began exercising for 30 minutes five days a week, something she had been telling her patients to do but had not done herself.

“Care for yourself with as much intent as you would your patients,” she said.

Tyson also challenged the students to get to know the physicians they work with, including asking questions not only about work but also their families. She encouraged them to make rounds with the doctors and hear firsthand what the physician is telling the patient.

Cauble School founding dean, Dr. Glynis Blackard, celebrated the student nurses’ rite of passage of the White Coat Ceremony, thanking the faculty, staff, students and families for all the roles they play in the journey. She shared her own pearls of wisdom, including giving the answer when someone asks them for a diagnosis – politely encourage them to get medical attention.

“We are one of the most trusted professions. The patients in the communities we serve that see you in this white coat, they expect you to be knowledgeable. They expect you to be an advocate and demonstrate caring and compassion for all. As you don this coat, I am hopeful you will accept it with humility. We are human. We can’t possibly know everything. It’s important we understand the importance of our resources.”

She also charged the students with remembering that all patients they serve are God’s children and that it is important to analyze every situation in many different ways every time.

“As you take this coat, I am hopeful that you will accept it and demonstrate the accountability and responsibility that comes with it,” Blackard said.

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Congratulations to the newest cohort of student nurses. Photo by Jeff Reed.