Everything You Need to Know About Your White Coat Ceremony

Everything You Need to Know About Your White Coat Ceremony

Carolyn Cumper

Carolyn Cumper

Published in MedShop Blog

0 min read

August 22, 2022

The white coat ceremony is an important milestone in your professional career. Often seen as the real starting point of your medical journey, the ceremony can feel like the moment you go from being a member of the public, to a member of the healthcare community.

If you’ve just started medical school and have been invited to a white coat ceremony for the first time, you might be asking what is the white coat ceremony? And wondering what to expect from the occasion. To help you navigate your way through this important event, we’re taking a look at everything you need to know about the ceremony. From  white coat ceremony captions, dress codes and gifts, to traditions and oaths, we’re looking at all aspects of this medical rite of passage.  


What is a White Coat Ceremony?

Although different institutions have different traditions, in general, white coat ceremonies  involve the presentation of a gift (most commonly, a white lab coat) and the swearing of an oath. Most white coat ceremonies will take place in a university auditorium or hall, though some institutions might hire an outside space for the occasions. 

Medical students taking part in a white coat ceremony will swear the Hippocratic Oath. Other healthcare students may also swear oaths or make similar promises to do no harm and help their patients.

In some cases, friends and family will be invited to watch a white coat ceremony. However, a lot of the time it’s just the students, their classmates and their professors at the event. 

What is White Coat Ceremony History?

Though it may seem like an ancient tradition, the history of the white coat ceremony is actually fairly short. The first white coat ceremony was held in 1993 when a professor at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons decided that students should take the Hippocratic Oath at the beginning of their studies rather than the end. The ceremony was created as an opportunity for students to swear the oath, thus placing patient care and medical ethics at the very heart of their medical studies.

The tradition quickly spread and today white coat ceremonies are held in medical schools around the world, with thousands of budding healthcare professionals enjoying the event every year. In fact, the ceremony is so important that many schools hold theirs during orientation, right at the start of the academic year.


Who Gets a White Coat Ceremony?

Although the white coat ceremony is probably most closely associated with doctors, a lot of other budding medical professionals also go through this rite of passage. It’s common for universities and medical schools to host a pharmacist white coat ceremony, a nursing white coat ceremony and a physical therapy white coat ceremony alongside an event for aspiring doctors.

During a white coat ceremony pharmacy students will also receive a lab coat and possibly other pieces of medical equipment. A pharmacy white coat ceremony probably won’t include an oath as, unlike medical students, those studying pharmacy don’t swear the Hippocratic Oath.


White Coat Ceremony for Nurses

The white coat ceremony nursing students enjoy will be broadly similar to that of doctors. They’ll be presented with a gift related to their profession (often a white coat, stethoscope or another piece of medical equipment) and will be reminded of the importance of placing patients at the heart of their medical practice. However, nurses won’t swear the Hippocratic Oath, instead, they’ll say related white coat ceremony quotes that reflect their commitment to do no harm and put patients first.


White Coat Ceremony Gifts

During a white coat ceremony, participants will generally be given a white lab coat by their university. After all, this is how the ceremony got its name. Some medical schools give students other items that are related to their profession, like a stethoscope, medical bag or scrubs. Pharmacy and nursing students may also receive something other than a white coat during their ceremony.

Sometimes, friends and family of the students also give them gifts to help them along their way. If you know someone who’s just started at medical school and are looking for gifts for white coat ceremony to surprise them with, why not present them with a personalised white coat or another beautifully crafted piece of medical equipment?

What to Wear to White Coat Ceremony? 

A lot of students want to know what to wear to a white coat ceremony. Very few would have been to one before, so it’s understandable they want to get their white coat ceremony outfit just right. 

In general, these events are fairly formal. Male doctors looking for white coat ceremony outfits might choose a suit, while female doctors often opt to wear evening dresses for white coat ceremony.

White coat ceremony dresses are generally fairly smart. While doctors probably wouldn’t wear a gown or anything too glamorous, most would put on their best formal outfit for the occasion. If you’re still unsure about white coat ceremony dress, ask your medical school about their dress code.

A white coat ceremony is an important milestone in every medical professional’s journey. Marking the start of your new career, it’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. So, if you’ve got a white coat ceremony coming up, or if you have a loved one who’s just starting out on their medical career, why not take a look at our collection of high quality supplies to find the perfect memento for the occasion?

Author: Carolyn Cumper's career spans from being a Patrol Officer in Rhodesia to a Paediatric Nurse in the UK, and later a Deputy Hospice Manager in Australia. Her diverse journey includes roles in law enforcement, healthcare, and business, culminating in her significant contributions to Medshop.

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