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On Thursday, Halifax Community College (HCC) hosted its inaugural White Coat Ceremony for the School of Nursing. 

Funded by a grant provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, the ceremony initiated first-year nursing students into the profession.

The Gold Foundation established the White Coat Ceremony in 1993. 

According to the Foundation, it is “intended for first year students in medical, nursing and physician assistant programs … as a rite of passage. It serves to welcome students to healthcare practice and elevate the value of humanism as the core of healthcare. It provides a powerful emphasis on compassion in combination with scientific excellence.”

“This was a monumental moment for our students and faculty,” said Kelly Eller, director of the HCC School of Nursing. “We were so excited to receive the grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.”

Eller sought the grant this summer as a way to encourage the incoming students. “Adjusting to the rigorous routine of nursing school is a difficult task,” Eller said. “The white coat is a symbol of the dedication that the students have put into the program so far.” 

An additional element that was included was a “Keeping Healthcare Human” lapel pin that was presented to each student. “The pin serves as a reminder to keep healthcare human and always listen to your patients,” Eller said.

“We are proud of each of you here today,” said Dr. Michael Elam, president of HCC. “This ceremony is only the first step in your exceptional journey to nursing success. I am excited to see how each of you lead.”

Michael Felt, chairperson of the HCC Board of Trustees, offered a personal reflection on the power and importance of nurses. “When we wake up from surgery, we expect to see a bunch of white masks,” he said. “But, do you know who’s there? The nurses. You are the first thing we see when we wake up, and we thank you for that.”

The keynote speaker for the event was Eloise Hardy, a true icon for nursing excellence in the Roanoke Valley. 

She spoke of the past, and the challenges that she and her fellow nurses faced as they were training. 

She then reminded them of the responsibility they now have to their future patients. “My stories are the past, and you are the future,” Hardy said.

The HCC School of Nursing will host the White Coat Ceremony every fall semester.