If you are a medical field student, you are likely already heavily familiar with the white coat ceremony. However, if you are a newbie to the medical world and wondering what and when the white coat ceremony is, we have got you covered.
For most medical professionals, the white coat ceremony is a monumental journey in one’s career in medicine. It is something that many individuals look forward to and find highly memorable. Along with providing you with information about when the festival is, we will also provide information on how long the ceremony lasts and what you should wear to the ceremony.
If this sounds like information you want to hear, all you have to do is one thing – keep reading.
What is a White Coat Ceremony?
One of the most important questions to answer before determining when the ceremony is is to answer what the ritual is and where it came from. If you wonder how the white coat ceremony came to be, we will help you understand just that. It may seem like the white coat ceremony is something that has been around for a long time, but it was, in fact, created by a foundation, the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. They started this ceremony in 1993.
The first ceremony was held at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. To this day, with the help and support from others, the white coat ceremony has been embraced almost universally around the country. The White Coat ceremony was meant to bring the human touch back into the field of medicine which the Gold Foundation thought was essential to do at the beginning of a young medical professional’s career.
Contrary to popular belief, physicians did not always wear white. Some time ago, physicians wore all black. However, white was utilized to symbolize purity or cleanliness as time progressed. This is said to be similar to the tradition of brides wearing white for cleanliness and purity. Students are being bestowed with this “cloak of honor during the ceremony.”
Though first only utilized for new physicians, the Foundation soon realized that nurses also play an essential role in healthcare and should be recognized. Though roughly 20 years later, in 2014, the white coat ceremony for nurses was enacted. Though it has not been adopted as widely as the Physician’s ceremony, over 300 schools across the country now take part in this ceremony.
One thing you may be wondering is who gets a white coat ceremony. Several other professions have a white coat ceremony aside from physicians and nurses. Pharmacy students also have a white coat ceremony. Though this may seem uncommon, it can be pointed out that pharmacy students do, in fact, receive doctoral degrees and are indeed doctors. Physicians assistants having white coat ceremonies have become a more popular trend.
However, understanding the purpose behind the ceremony and who partakes in it does not paint the full picture of what the ceremony is. You must understand what happens during the ceremony to understand its importance truly.
When Does the White Coat Ceremony Take Place?
The white coat ceremony is often a milestone that many health professionals look forward to and cherish for their entire lives. It represents a problematic yet triumphant time in their lives for several medical students and most certainly something to be proud of.
During the ceremony, students will not only receive their white coats but receive words of encouragement and wisdom from medical professionals they may know or even look up to. Speakers may include the dean of students, hospital presidents, or other notable medical leaders.
Students are not only bestowed with their white coats during this ceremony, but they must also take the white coat ceremony oath, also known as the Hippocratic Oath. This essentially states that they will be ethically sound and present themselves as professionals that the medical society can be proud of.
Before the white coat ceremony’s inception, the Hippocratic oath was recited at graduation, a time that, for many, didn’t make sense to everyone. The oath now signifies their entrance into the medical profession rather than its end.
Though the ceremonies often have similar agendas, the events in the ceremony may differ based on the school that you attend. However, one thing remains the same: the overall message that the ceremony sends. Though students will receive their white coats, they will also receive messages about practicing ethics and being ethical doctors.
The ceremony generally takes place at the beginning of a student’s medical school tenure. For some schools, the ceremony may take place on the first day of orientation, while for others, it may be during the summer before the semester begins. The ceremony is not only an initiation but a welcome into the medical world.
How Long is a White Coat Ceremony?
Though a big deal for students, the white coat ceremony does not take the longest amount of time to complete. The ceremony will typically last around one and a half hours. Some ceremonies may even last as little as an hour.
What to Wear to a White Coat Ceremony?
If you have an upcoming white coat ceremony, it is likely that you are looking to put your best foot forward. Though you will be bestowed a white coat to wear on top of your clothing, you must dress presentably and represent yourself and your school well.
Some schools will provide their students with a recommended attire for the ceremony, while others may trust their students’ judgment to air on the side of caution. However, the most commonly requested attire is business casual. This means that there should not be students showing up to the ceremony in jeans, gym shoes, or any clothing which can be considered casual. Your white coat ceremony should be taken seriously, and your dress should reflect that.
The white coat ceremony should be considered a conservative event. When in doubt, It’s always important to air on the side of caution. As a female, when dressing for the ceremony, pay attention to the lengths of skirts or dresses which you are considering. Wearing a dress that is too short or a skirt that is too short may give the illusion that you are not wearing anything under your white coat. You want to ensure that your skirt flows under the coat’s hemline.
The neckline is also an area that females must look out for. You do not want to show ample amounts of cleavage or draw unnecessary attention to your body; that is not the point of the ceremony. Common outfits that often will make for the perfect attire for the white coat ceremony are pantsuits or skirt suits, often worn for interviews or even professional dresses. This takes the confusion away from having to find multiple pieces and makes getting dressed even more effortless.
Another thing that women should be mindful of is their shoes. Though it may seem like something small, you do not want your shoes to taking the attention away from the receipt of your red coat. This means that your shoes should match your business casual or professional business dress. Stay away from the large wedges and 6-inch heels.
Men may have it a bit easier than a woman. Though you don’t need to wear a three-piece suit or whip out your Sunday’s best, you will need to dress up your look a bit. A typical outfit for a male would include a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt. If you are concerned about what to wear or if you will be underdressed, this is an excellent uniform for a man to stick to. You want to make sure that your clothes are not only wrinkle-free and on par with the ceremony, but you also want to make sure that they fit.
Your clothes should not be too large or too small for males or females. This means for women, nothing too tight that accentuates your shape unnecessarily, and for men, this means no sagging or baggy clothes. Aside from being nicely pressed and ironed, you should also be clean and approachable. You want to keep your accessories to a minimum.
How would you want your doctor to look if you were going into your doctor’s office? Keep that in mind when getting dressed for the white coat ceremony.
Wrapping Things Up: When is the White Coat Ceremony?
The white coat ceremony for medical students is something which should be celebrated. It marks the beginning of a journey many medical students will never forget. This ceremony also aids students, in the beginning, to think about the type of doctor that they would like to be.
Did you know there is even a white coat ceremony for veterinary students? This ceremony has fascinating origins and is still fairly new overall. Though originally started for traditional physicians during the beginning of medical school, it has now been expanded.
This ceremony which is often riddled with medical alumni, college deans, and several other notable doctors, provides incoming medical students a glimpse into their future and potential colleagues. With that in mind, students should not only show up mentally but physically.
This particular night celebrated by students, friends, and faculty gives you a chance to showcase your best business casual dress while still standing out in your white coat. We hope your white coat ceremony is as memorable as so many doctors around the country.