Nursing Ceremony Toolkit

Welcome, nurses, to our community of caring. The Gold Foundation recognizes that each nursing program is unique and will choose to hold this important rite of passage at a time in the nursing curriculum that works best for their program.

The shape and feel of this important ceremony that infuses nurses’ training with the concept of humanistic patient care is unique to each nursing school. It might take the form of a lamp lighting ceremony, a hand blessing, a challenge coin ceremony, a white coat ceremony, or a tradition distinct to the nursing school.

Some programs hold this ceremony at the start of nursing education, while some time it to coincide with the moment students enter their clinical training, and others incorporate it into existing ceremonies. This ritual infuses the process of professional identity formation with humanism during training before students start work.

The essential thread is to introduce the concept of humanistic patient care, which we define as compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent care, at a critical juncture in the nursing students’ education. Being an excellent nurse requires a humanistic approach to care.

This toolkit was designed specifically for nursing schools and includes:

Visit Planning Your Nursing Ceremony for ideas and guidance on logistics and other tips to make your event a success.

2022 Nursing Keynote Address

In this virtual keynote address, Rear Admiral Aisha K. Mix, the Chief Nurse Officer and an Assistant Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, shares her insights and advice to new nursing students. She is introduced by Dr. Deborah Trautman, PhD, RN, FAAN, President and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and Dr. Richard I. Levin, President & CEO of The Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Nursing schools planning a ceremony can request access to this virtual keynote address through this form.

The Gold Foundation thanks the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) for their support and assistance in creating this address.

Welcome Video Montage

We welcome you to incorporate this montage of inspiring photos of nursing students into your ceremony as a welcome to the Gold community of caring. Request the link to download or stream the video.

Expected Elements of the Ceremony

Every ceremony is unique, as each school adds their own special sense of place, history, and culture. Yet there are consistent elements. The list below features the elements essential to the ceremony centered on compassionate care, which is, at its core, a ritual that emphasizes the importance of humanism in healthcare from the beginning of the clinician’s journey.

Recite Pledge or Oath: The pledge or oath is the central component of the ceremony and students read or recite it together. Schools select a pledge or an oath that includes a commitment to humanistic patient care, based on their own tradition. Many are student- or faculty-written, and it is typically the same pledge or oath recited at commencement. Read examples below.

Timing during training: It is important to hold this ritual early on in nursing training and professional identity formation, in order to demonstrate the significance of humanism as students are becoming the compassionate caretaker they’ve set out to be. Some hold the ceremony at the start of nursing education, others time it to coincide with the moment students enter their clinical training, while others incorporate it into existing ceremonies.

Focus on humanism: In addition to the pledge or oath, the emphasis on humanistic patient care can be delivered through a keynote address and/or highlighted in remarks from nursing school leadership. Schools may also ask students to reflect on compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent care through writing, discussions, or other initiatives.

Pins: The Gold Foundation offers special maroon “Keeping Healthcare Human” lapel pins to be given to each nursing student at the ceremony. Thanks to our supporters, we provide these pins without cost to nursing schools. School administrators can request pins using our online form at least 30 days in advance of the ceremony date.

Please remember to acknowledge The Arnold P. Gold Foundation for the pins in your ceremony program, and we encourage you to include a brief statement about the background and significance of this ritual in your ceremony program.

Example Pledges and Oaths

While some schools have students read a modified version of the Florence Nightingale Pledge, many nursing programs use one written by faculty or students, or a combination. Read a selection of example pledges and oaths used in nursing ceremonies.

Example Ceremonies

See examples of how nursing programs have used different and unique features to make the ceremony their own.

Planning Your Ceremony

Visit Planning Your Nursing Ceremony for ideas and guidance on the cloaking procedure, logistics, and other tips to make your event a success.

The following webinar offers guidance on hosting a virtual or hybrid ceremony:

Hosting a Virtual Nursing School White Coat/Oath Ceremony Webinar with the AACN: A webinar on holding an iconic ritual emphasizing humanism in healthcare in an age of physical distancing.

View the webinar recording and download the PPT slides on the website of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

Additional Ceremony Materials

Program template (Publisher) (InDesign) – add your school’s logo, ceremony speakers, students, and other details, and print at the printing shop of your choice, or save as a PDF to distribute via email or on your website. If you prefer a different file format, please email

Pledge/Oath Ceremony slides (PPT) – incorporate these slides into your ceremony using this template, which can be edited to reflect your school name, logo, student photos and names. It also includes a link to a video about the legacy of Arnold P. Gold.

Signage, Logo and Font

The 2.5-foot by 8-foot banner can be modified to include your school’s logo and then ordered from VistaPrint or the printing shop of your choice.

2.5-foot x 8-foot “Welcome to the Gold Community of Caring” banner (InDesign or PDF) – edit the name of your ceremony, add your school’s logo, and have it created at the printing shop of your choice. If you don’t wish to edit the banner, you may also download a PDF with the welcome message and Gold Foundation logo.

Gold Foundation White Coat Ceremony logo (PNG) – for inclusion on your own specially designed program or banner.

Font: Source Sans Pro (free download) – this open source typeface family is often used in our materials.

Media Materials

5 marketing tips (PDF) – ideas to promote your ceremony widely and engage with the Gold Foundation through social media.

Press release template for schools (Word). These templates include a quote from Gold Foundation President/CEO Dr. Levin and can be modified for your school and sent to local media outlets, such as local TV stations and newspapers.

Virtual Ceremony Example

The University of Toledo College of Nursing held a lovely virtual ceremony in which students were shown each donning their white coats at home.