Plan Your White Coat Ceremony

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Based on our experience and suggestions from schools over the years, we recommend the following timeline for planning your White Coat Ceremony:

DECEMBER – JANUARY

  1. Date of White Coat Ceremony (WCC) is designated. Keynote speaker to be selected by committee that includes the Dean. At some schools, upper-class students are included in the process.
  2. Medical Schools — Send grant request to the Foundation if first-time WCC or submit a pin application form to receive Keeping Healthcare Human lapel pins.
  3. Nursing Schools — Apply through the AACN to host your first WCC or submit a pin application form to receive lapel pins from the Foundation.

JANUARY – FEBRUARY

  1. Dean makes initial phone contact with keynote speaker — Suggested time for address is 20 – 30 minutes. The Dean should explain the inspirational intent of the event and state time limit.
  2. Follow up letter of invitation sent from Dean’s office outlining guidelines and confirming duration of address.
  3. Travel arrangements and accommodations arranged for speaker.
  4. Space reserved for ceremony and reception.

MARCH – APRIL

  1. Sponsorship and catering arranged for reception. Possible sponsors include hospital or alumni association.
  2. Audio-visual and photography arrangements confirmed.
    • Video of ceremony can be viewed at reception
    • Copies of videos may be ordered and purchased by students
  3. Participation, date and time of event confirmed with Deans, head of hospital and medical center, faculty, and speakers.
  4. When students are admitted, request coat sizes and advise them to reserve the date of their White Coat Ceremony so that family and friends can attend.

MAY

  1. Order white coats and confirm delivery date.
  2. Sample press release is available from The Gold Foundation for use by the medical school public relations office.
  3. When applicable, school representative to confirm with Foundation representative participation in research project and distribution of student questionnaires.
  4. School to arrange design, layout, quantities and printing for invitation, and program. The program should include text of the oath being used, credit to the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, names of participating speakers and class list, if possible. Invitation should also include an RSVP telephone number. Logos for the Arnold P. Gold Foundation can be found here:
  5. School to confirm arrangements for music at ceremony. A processional and recessional set a celebratory tone for the event. A live brass quintet is recommended, although recorded music is also acceptable. Generally, string quartets or solo piano are not sufficiently audible unless amplified carefully.

JUNE

  1. Determine if a Gold Foundation representative is planning to attend.
  2. School to arrange for printing of invitations, bookplates, return cards, and envelopes.
  3. School to confirm delivery date for printed materials.
  4. School to confirm the following:
    • white coats ordered (confirm class count with Foundation for proper number of pins)
    • Funding arrangements for reception finalized; menu and flowers decided
    • Name tags for students and guests ordered
    • Order of speakers on the program is set; reconfirm time limits of their remarks.
    • Orientation letter and calendar for students mention White Coat Ceremony date, time, and location
    • Dean send invitations to faculty to attend and perhaps participate by marching in with students and joining in taking the oath. Other possible invitees include the Dean of Admissions, the President of the state medical association, alumni association President
  5. School to mail invitations to:
    • parents and students (confirm student names and addresses with admission office for ID tags)
    • special guests, include name tags to be worn as IDs
    • 2nd and 3rd year students, if participating in orientation program
    • prospective benefactors who might support the White Coat Ceremony in future years
    • advise about parking arrangements for all guests

JULY

  1. Reconfirm student address labels with Admissions Office.
  2. Confirm guest lists with Deans and Gold Foundation, if Foundation representative will attend.
  3. Confirm travel arrangements and accommodations with speaker (and Gold representative, if applicable).
  4. Gold Foundation to send Gold lapel pins to school at least two weeks prior to White Coat Ceremony.
  5. If possible, arrange to project oath on screen for all to read.
  6. If applicable, school may arrange a VIP dinner with speaker and special guests, as well as special tours, hospital tour, clinic visits, etc.
  7. Confirm luncheon arrangements for keynote speaker for day of ceremony, as applicable.
  8. Remind and encourage students to have their parents attend.
  9. When applicable, Gold Foundation to send student questionnaires and confirm procedure.
  10. Prepare and distribute driving and parking directions for VIPs and Foundation guests, if applicable.
  11. Decide on cloaking procedures and dress code for students and faculty physicians on dais (ex: should faculty wear white coats?).
    • Select and invite at least five cloakers. Some schools use multiple sets of orientation advisors to do cloaking, others multiple sets of department chiefs, etc. At some schools, faculty mentors cloak the students who were in their small groups at orientation
    • Five cloakers in a row keep the process moving smoothly. If there is more than one person cloaking, instruct students to go to furthest “cloaker” who is free. (At one school, ten cloakers were on the stage. As names were announced, each student took his or her place in front of a cloaker until all 10 students were in line. When the final student arrived, the cloakers placed the coats on their respective students in unison)
    • When the class is large, the students can be cloaked separately to keep students moving steadily off the stage. Some schools have experimented with having a book to sign after taking the oath, which they can sign again at Commencement.

3 Weeks prior to Ceremony:

  1. Confirm number of students on list.
  2. Finalize arrangements with caterer and florist.
  3. Set and print program. To avoid the keynote speaker’s remarks from seeming anticlimactic, cloaking should follow the speaker.
  4. Be sure students’ guest tickets are distributed accordingly.

2 Weeks prior to Ceremony:

  1. Finalize arrangements with photographers and musicians. Photographer should be at the reception, as well as at the Ceremony. Decide if videos will be made available to students for sale.
  2. Finalize hall set-up, microphones, head table (tablecloth, banner), chairs, water glasses, etc.
  3. Gold Foundation to send Gold lapel pins and cards

Week of Ceremony:

  1. White coats to be pinned with Gold Foundation pins, tagged and hung unbuttoned in alphabetical order on hangers and coat racks with cards in coat pockets, to be distributed and carried by students as they process to the ceremony. Alternatively, put student’s names on seats and place unbuttoned coats folded on each chair.
  2. Prepare final class list and confirm and prepare participants for role in ceremony: who does cloaking, distributes books, shakes hands, etc.
  3. If possible, prepare students and cloakers for the cloaking experience through a rehearsal.
  4. Confirm designated person to pick up speaker, time and place, etc.
  5. Confirm ushers and staff to be on-hand at ceremony.
  6. Where applicable, finalize VIP dinner, luncheon and parking arrangements for guests
  7. Confirm delivery time for flowers and programs.
  8. If applicable, school to administer research project questionnaires to students.
  9. Confirm arrangements (projector, or computer and screen) for projecting the oath.

Day of Ceremony:

  1. Keynote speaker picked up and taken to ceremony (or lunch preceding, if applicable).
  2. Place flowers on stage.
  3. Programs tabled at entrances (or distributed as guests enter ceremony).
  4. Prepare seating in hall.
    • Reserve seats and label them for special guests and directors
    • Reserve and label student section (alphabetically). White coats to be distributed to students just before they process into hall and carried on arm. Again, remind students to take off suit jackets before being cloaked
    • Arrange seating for dais with place cards, glasses, and water
    • Arrange seating for musicians
  5. Check on needs for handicapped.
  6. Warm up room, if needed.
  7. Arrange with two or three staff members to help distribute white coats to students or cloakers, depending on the cloaking procedure. Check that the coats are in alphabetical order. Some schools used a card system that assured the Dean called the name of the correct student. As the student entered the stage on the Dean’s side, he or she handed the card to the Dean, thus identifying that student as present on stage.
  8. Ensure ushers at doors.

Actual Ceremony

  1. White Coat Ceremonies where students are given clear instructions prior to the event are enjoyed most:
    • Organize the students in alphabetical line for processional
    • Row should stand as a group when instructed by row organizer
    • Encourage participants to shake hands and move quickly
  2. Before introducing the students, announce to the audience to hold their applause until the last student is announced and to stay seated at the end of the ceremony until the students finish the recessional. (Some schools use the time between calling students’ names to mention each student’s undergraduate school and major).
  3. The oath should take place as soon as all students are cloaked. Following cloaking and oath, formally end the program. Prior to ceremony, Dean should instruct and perhaps practice with students, that after reciting the oath and on cue: “And now I present to you the Class of 2003,” all students will turn together in the same direction and face the audience.
  4. Arrange for class photo if desired.
Additional suggestions from other White Coat Ceremony participant schools:
  1. Read “Gaudeamus Igitur” by John Stone, former Arnold P. Gold Foundation Board member and co-author of On Doctoring, after students receive the book. Moving and very meaningful.
  2. Hire an events coordinator if school is not staffed to handle the ceremony and preparations.

Within a month after the ceremony:

  1. Dean to send thank you notes to faculty and student participants (ushers, cloakers, etc).
  2. Schools with first time ceremony grants to send receipts to the Foundation, as per grant agreement
  3. Evaluation of program to take place.
  4. School to send Foundation copies of invitations, programs, press articles, photos and videos pertaining to the White Coat Ceremony. Personal letters from students, parents and medical school personnel are most welcome. Arrange for link to photos and video to be sent to the Gold Foundation.