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Photo: Calvin College
Nursing faculty members washed students’ hands as part of the ceremony.
Photo by Calvin College

At the start of the current semester, Calvin College’s nursing class of 2019 took part in the college’s first-annual nursing White Coat Ceremony, a formal event that marks the transition from pre-nursing courses to working with clients in clinicals.

The ceremony was held in the Chapel Undercroft. Calvin College was one of two colleges in Michigan that received a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for the ceremony.

“Historically in nursing, there’s a transition from classes to hands-on work with clients. That’s a good transition to mark,” said Barbara Timmermans, associate professor of nursing at Calvin College.

Before the nursing students and faculty shared lunch, professor Gail Zandee explained the nursing schedule for their next two years, encouraging students in the important work they’d be engaging in.

 “We see nursing not just as a job but as a calling; a way to use our gifts and be Christ’s hands and feet in world,” Zandee said. “We’re uniquely community-based. We [professors] want students to look at clients in the context of their family and community because that has a direct impact on that individual—you need to care for individuals in their context.”

The group proceeded to worship to the songs “10,000 Reasons” and “Be Thou My Vision,” with Timmermans on piano and senior nursing student Ben Cooper on guitar.

The ceremony also included faculty washing students’ hands, Pastor Mary Hulst offering a blessing and students reciting an oath. “We wanted these students to think about doing their nursing work with hands that are consecrated to God,” Timmermans said.

Junior Clair Baade enjoyed the ceremony and is looking forward to her new experiences as a nursing major. “I am very excited to enter this next chapter of my life,” she said. “I feel like that the past two years have been building up to this point. I can't wait to use what I have learned from the past two years and combine it with the practical skills I will learn through clinical and nursing classes.”

Baade also feels that her pre-nursing classes have prepared her well for the next two years. “Pre-nursing classes were hard, but they did their job. Calvin has prepared me well spiritually, too. Entering this new chapter is transitioning me from a vocation as a student into my vocation as a nurse in order to serve the Kingdom of God.”

Jaclynn Lubbers, assistant professor of nursing at Calvin, has seen many nursing students express both excitement and fear at this point in their Calvin education, but she assures them that they aren’t being asked of anything they’re not ready for. “My hope is that the ceremony gave these students a lens of faith from which they can start this new chapter,” she said.