East Georgia State College held their Inaugural White Coat Ceremony on Thursday, January 18, 2018 in the Luck F. Gambrell Building Auditorium on the Swainsboro Campus. The White Coat Ceremony recognized the first two classes of EGSC’s RN to BSN Bridge Program, which allows working nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree entirely online at an affordable, local institution.
Dr. Jimmy Wedincamp, Dean of the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, welcomed those present to the ceremony, recognizing special guests and community partners that made the program possible. He was followed by Gail Ware, Vice President of Student Effectiveness at Southeastern Technical College.
“A little over two years ago, Dr. Boehmer approached Southeastern Technical College about an unheard-of collaboration between a technical college and a Board of Regents college,” explained Ware. “He proposed that EGSC and STC join forces with respect to the sharing of institutional resources in order to support nursing education in our community and beyond,” said Ware. “An agreement was finally signed in February of 2016. I assure you both colleges are fully committed to improving and supporting nursing education by sharing resources that are necessary to meet the immediate demand and need for associate-level and baccalaureate-level nurses in our rural area, and we are both dedicated to improving healthcare in our entire region.”
“The collaboration between EGSC and STC is the perfect match for improving healthcare in our community and in our region,” she continued. “A nurse’s knowledge can make a dynamic impact on patients, their families and the healthcare organizations in our service area.”
Dr. Deborah Vess, Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs, then introduced EGSC President Dr. Bob Boehmer, who gave the Keynote Speech.
“This event is a really big deal for EGSC because these students have chosen to pursue what is one of the most respected and important professions in the United States right now,” he said. “I just want to say how genuinely proud we are to have these students as part of the EGSC family.”
“When I say how deeply proud of you I am, I know you can sit here and think ‘He’s the president, he has to say that,’ but I want you to know how deeply personal this is to me,” he said, sharing a photo from 1949 of his mother, Gabrielle, who was a nurse and also taught nursing classes at the University of Portland. “For many years of my life, I would watch my mom get up at five in the morning, go in and work the 7 a.m. shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and then go to the University of Portland to teach classes in the evenings on the weekend. I had a lot of chances to observe what nurses did and how much impact they have on the lives of their patients and the families of their patients, and I have a deep respect for your profession.”
He also described his time in the US Army as a medic, saying, “I want you to picture how frightening this would be: An 18-year-old comes up and says ‘I’m Bob. I’m here to help you.’ But I had a lot of time to watch nurses in action and I saw first-hand the kind of impact that what nurses do can have on the lives of patients.”
“This program is worth every bit of effort we went through to make it happen,” he said. “Healthcare is one of the top priorities in the United States right now and you, nurses, are the key to the solution.”
LaTyshia Lowe, part of the Class of Fall 2018, then spoke regarding the occasion. She outlined the history of the ceremony, which began in 1993.
“Wearing these white lab coats reminds us that we are healthcare providers with professional duties as proscribed by our oaths and pledges that we have taken to lead our lives and practice our art in uprightness and honor. To our patients and family members, our white lab coat is a symbol of caring, compassion, service and, most definitely, respect. To each of us as professional registered nurses, our white lab coats are tangible reminders of the agreement that all nurses make with our patients and their families that you can trust us with even your life. We do not take it for granted that our patients and their families trust their nurses that we will deliver individualized, compassionate nursing care and advocate for their wellbeing. We wear our white lab coats with dedication and pride.”
Though some students were unable to attend, mostly due to the ongoing flu outbreak, each student was recognized during the ceremony. They were Class of Fall 2018: Misty L. Adams of Vidalia, Maranda H. Anglin and Monica W. Johnson of Millen, Amanda K. Bell and Sharon Denise Peebles of Swainsboro, Sonya L. Giles of Lyons, Karla H. Jones of Milan, LaTyshia N. Lowe of Warner Robins, Fara Beth Martin of Twin City and Ashley L. McCoy of Adrian; and the Class of Spring 2019: Tomeka S. Browder of Reidsville, Rebecca B. Brown, Mai Fujimoto and Claudia Y. Rodriquez of Statesboro, Robyn D. Cumbee and Dina M. Durden of Twin City, Marian C. Forrest of Vidalia, Christy Paul of Conyers, Cathryn Nichole Rogers of Soperton, Katherine Ware of Augusta and Paula Wilcox of Hazlehurst. Each student was cloaked in their white coat with the assistance of Director of Nursing Dr. Sylvia Rozier and Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Patrice Pierce.
Following the cloaking ceremony, Dr. Samuel Bowen, Pastor of Primitive Baptist Church, gave a Blessing of Hands, and Dr. Rozier asked all nurses, both students and in the audience, to stand to recite the Pledge to Service.
She concluded by saying, “Thank you for being everyday heroes.”
Sharon Denise Peebles, part of the Class of Fall 2018, then shared class remarks. She thanked the faculty and staff of the EGSC nursing program on behalf of her class and spoke on why her class returned to school to further their education.
“The Institute of Medicine has already put out recommendations that, by 2020, all nurses have a BSN degree,” she explained. “The medical field is constantly evolving, and we must increase our knowledge base so that we must be prepared to meet our community’s healthcare needs. This BSN program will allow us to work positions in case management, nursing education, and also allow us to hold positions in management.”
“Many of us are mothers, we have families, and we are very dedicated to those we love. Many of us wanted to go back to school and didn’t due to cost and time constraints, but to say that this degree is attainable and manageable is true,” she said. “We have already learned so much from this program. Dr. Rozier and Dr. Pierce have been amazing and have always been there to support us.”
She also took time to thank their families as well as their Health Assessment models, who were there to help the students complete their Health Assessment assignments.
After the ceremony, refreshments were served in the Luck F. Gambrell Building Rotunda.