Nursing students no longer receive white coats for graduating

By Cami Stump

The graduates from the UK College of Nursing will no longer be receiving white coats commemorating their graduation.

Since 2006, the College of Nursing Alumni Association has been gifting white coats to nursing school graduates upon their completion of the program.

Aimee Baston, director of Alumni and Development for the college, said the decision to discontinue the gifting of the white coats to nursing graduates was multi-faceted.

“Given that the white coats are not a part of the tradition of the nursing discipline, the expense associated with the gifting, the change in the Alumni Association dues structure, and the fact that graduates from the program reported that they did not wear the white coat, the decision was made,” she said in an email to the Kernel.

Shannon Tuemler, a nursing senior, said the white coats are symbolic of the hard work they have put in over the course of four years in the program.

“I understand that from the outside it may seem like a wasted expense, but to the students it can mean much more,” Tuemler said.

Baston said the College of Nursing Alumni Association used to charge dues to members to fund selected projects including the white coat gifting, but has eliminated dues to more fully engage the alumni.

The coats ranged from $22.50 to $25.50 per student, depending on size, Baston said. The College of Nursing class sizes have doubled since the white coat gifting began, increasing the financial impact on the association’s funds.

Pat Burkhart, dean of Undergraduate Studies, said the college of nursing covered the expense for the coats last year so as not to disappoint students who expected to receive a coat. The college will not do so this year.

Burkhart spoke with students about the issue and said in her experience the students did not have a problem with the discontinuation of the program.

After the meeting with class officers, Burkhart said she got the impression that students understood why the program had been cut.

Kristyn Mickley, senior officer for the May graduating class, was not disappointed with the decision made by the college’s alumni association.

“The white coat gift is something the students have always appreciated but have felt it was something that is more useful for our respected medical students who wear them in the hospital,” Mickley said in an email to the Kernel.

What students look forward to has traditionally been the pinning ceremony, which students will still have, Burkhart said.

“The white coats are really nothing like the capstone pin of the nursing program,” Burkhart said. “Nursing schools across the country have their own pin.”

Baston also said the pinning ceremony is a special event for the graduating students, unique to the nursing discipline. “The pinning ceremony is the traditional way to recognize the significance of entering the profession of nursing,” she said. “The college of Nursing is very pleased to continue the tradition.”

Although current nursing students may not be aware of the white coat, some said they are disappointed they will not be receiving the same honors as the graduates have before them.

“I think that graduating from the college of nursing is highly prestigious,” Ashley Huckaby, a nursing senior, said. “And I wish the program was not discontinued because nurses are just as important in the multidisciplinary health care field.”