Welcome to Lisa Sundean, who is joining our team of bloggers!
WCCs originated in 1993 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation. The purpose of the WCC is to symbolize the transition into the medical practice and to remind medical students of their promise to scientific, compassionate medical care. Since 1993, several other health professions have adopted the WCC as a professional milestone and transition for students. More recently, nursing schools have begun to adopt WCCs, endorsed and supported by AACN in partnership with The Arnold P. Gold Foundation (The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, 2013).
On the surface, the symbolism of the WCC for health professionals is honorable. However, one must question the utility and deeper meaning of the WCC for nurses. First, the WCC originated for the medical profession. Are nurses still so enamored by medicine that we cannot embrace our own professional symbolism and rituals? Second, nurses understand the struggle of the profession to rise up from more than a century of medical oppression and yet, we are willing to don the white coat of physicians as a symbol of achievement and transition in the nursing profession. Are we not cloaking our students in the very cloth of oppression we seek to emancipate from? Finally, as we face the critical need to transform healthcare, we fully understand the importance of interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration. Such collaboration capitalizes on the unique synergies of knowledge, skills, and expertise of various disciplines and professions. Is the WCC contrary to such collaboration? Does the WCC unconsciously invoke nurses to become more like physicians rather than the unique profession it seeks to become; a profession with a unique knowledge base, a unique skill set, a unique expertise, a unique contribution to health and healthcare, and a unique set of professional traditions?
The WCC is a new tradition for the medical profession. It is fair to respect the symbolism of the ceremony for physicians. However, adoption of the WCC for nurses is questionable. Nursing scholars encourage us to find our professional voice and establish our professional uniqueness (Kagan, Smith & Chinn, 2014). The quest for that uniqueness is a road paved with rigor, creativity, dedication, and commitment to the metaparadigm of nursing. With all due respect to The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, nurses, we can do better than allow ourselves to be seduced by a medical tradition to symbolize our unique profession and identity.
Kagan, P. N., Smith, M. C. & Chinn, P. L. (2014). Philosophies and practices of emancipatory nursing: Social justice as praxis. New York, NY: Routledge.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (July 2015). Gold Foundation and AACN to fund 60 nursing schools for 2015 white coat ceremonies. Retrieved from http://ymlp.com/zwDmlO
The Arnold P. Gold Foundation. (2013). White coat ceremony. Retrieved from http://humanism-in-medicine.org/programs/rituals/white-coat-ceremony/