The White Coat Ceremony - A Rite of Passage for Med Students

What is a White Coat Ceremony? 

Some call it a rite of passage. For some, it is the moment they've worked towards through their entire educational journey. For others, it is the kick-off to many challenging years of med school!

White Coat Ceremonies have gained popularity since the 1990s. At some medical schools, a White Coat Ceremony is held to welcome the new class of high achievers who have earned their place in their school. They gather with their classmates and receive a white laboratory coat, often embroidered with their names. Since their educational experiences will have them working in laboratory settings and/or in patient care, they'll be properly attired throughout their schooling. For other institutions, the White Coat Ceremony is the graduation ceremony. After years of study and internships, they finally transition from their education to the healthcare profession.
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The first full White Coat Ceremony was held by the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993. As part of the ceremony, the students took the Hippocratic Oath for the first time, giving them a set of principles and guidelines to follow during their time as a student. Since then, med schools all over the United States have adopted this practice, and it has spread throughout the world including other fields of practice like Pharmacy and Nursing studies. 

Here's a bit of information to help you get prepared for a White Coat Ceremony - either as a student or as a supportive family member or loved one cheering their medical student on!

White Coat Ceremony Dress or Attire

Are you a Medical Student attending your White Coat Ceremony? Here are some helpful hints on what you should wear to participate in the ceremony:

Get Camera Ready
Parents, family members, and faculty will be on hand and armed with their cameras and cell phones. There is no doubt that you will be photographed from just about every angle. So be confident in what you wear because those photos and videos will last forever. For some, that may mean polishing their shoes. For others, applying make-up, or having their hair professionally styled. Whatever makes you feel polished and put together - do it!

Be Conscious of Layers
Even if your White Coat Ceremony will be held outdoors, you don't want to wear anything too bulky. Remember, the most important part of the entire ceremony will be donning your white coat for the first time. You need it to fit over your clothes. That may mean wearing a shirt and tie instead of a blazer. It may mean a slim-fitting blouse or dress instead of a bulky sweater. Plan to wear something that you'll be comfortable in for many hours after receiving and slipping into your white coat!
Don't forget to send White Coat Ceremony invitations to loved ones, so they can cheer you on!

If you've been invited to attend the ceremony as a guest, cheering on a loved one, here are some thoughts:

Prepare for the Weather
Many White Coat Ceremonies, commencements, etc. are held either in large auditoriums with thousands of other people or outdoors with staging for the participants. Understanding where the ceremony will take place will help you choose the right attire. Perhaps you'll need an outer layer that you can remove if it gets too warm or a light jacket or sunglasses for an outdoor ceremony.

Smile for the Camera
As a cherished loved one who is there to support your student or graduate, it's highly likely that you'll be called upon to join them in photos that will be on display for many years. Choose your wardrobe appropriately for family photos! 

White Coat Ceremony Gift Ideas

Whether you're attending a White Coat Ceremony for an incoming student, or a graduating Doctor or Nurse, there's a good chance that you'll want to give them a gift as a symbol of your pride in their accomplishments. Here are a few ideas:

Personalized Gifts:
We've seen some pretty clever gifts for White Coat Ceremonies! You can get a coat hanger customized with the Doctor's name, or "1st White Coat" so that they can hang their keepsake up for years to come. Or you may choose to get a personalized Stethoscope. Customized journals - to keep track of their challenging time in med school. Or an engraved watch, marking the day that they transitioned into the professional world. These are wonderful keepsakes that they'll keep forever.

Group Videos:
A white coat ceremony is the culmination of decades of study and perseverance. In most families, it marks the first time that anyone has joined the medical profession. A Congratulations Group Video - a compilation of messages from friends, family, teachers, and loved ones - is a thoughtful and timeless gift that they can play again and again!

After years of grueling schedules and stressful studies, the new medical professional has earned a vacation, don't you think? Provide them with a travel voucher or gift card for a weekend getaway that they can use on their own schedule. Or, if you can pre-arrange it, send them or take them on a much-needed dream vacation before they settle into a new role and their work schedule. A week in Italy? Sure! A secluded cottage getaway? Why not?! Choose something that you know suits them - they'll appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness for years to come!

A White Coat Ceremony is a new beginning and an incredible reason to celebrate. Congratulations on getting there!
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