Planning a White Coat Ceremony

Planning a White Coat/Oath Ceremony can be complex, involving coordination with students, family members, faculty, facilities and an entire universe of collaborators working together to make this a truly memorable occasion. We’ve captured some of the key pieces to think about as you start planning.

Visit our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit for additional resources, including recorded keynote speeches, a webinar recording on virtual ceremonies, program templates, and more.

Keeping Healthcare Human Pins

All accredited medical schools, nursing schools, and physician assistant schools are eligible to receive Keeping Healthcare Human lapel pins from the Gold Foundation. The pin welcomes students to their new profession and serves as a persistent reminder of their commitment to treat patients with dignity and respect. Request Keeping Healthcare Human pins at least 30 days before your ceremony date.

With the pins, the Gold Foundation also provides a pocket card with a short inspirational message from the foundation and its founder, Dr. Arnold Gold. The card should be placed in the coat pocket and the Keeping Healthcare Human pin should either be pinned to the coats prior to the ceremony or featured in a pinning moment woven into the ceremony.

Coats and Cloaking Procedure

Order white coats (or your school’s equivalent) with plenty of time to allow for any customization (such as embroidered names, or patches), placement of pins and pocket cards, and/or rectification of any error with the order.

Students should receive their white coats before the ceremony. White coats can be hung in alphabetical order or alternatively placed folded on each student’s assigned chair.

Cloaking is typically done as students cross the stage. Select and invite multiple cloakers to keep the process moving smoothly. Schools use a variety of cloakers, such as orientation advisors, department chiefs, faculty mentors, distinguished alumni, family members, etc. Typically, students are cloaked in small groups depending on the number of cloakers. As names are announced, each student takes his or her place in front of a cloaker. Once all students are in place, the cloakers place the coats on their respective students in unison. Then, the next group of students takes their place.

If gifts are given, they can be handed out as the student exits the stage.

Confirm and prepare participants for the process and their roles in the ceremony: who will cloak students, distribute gifts, shake hands, etc. Some schools schedule a brief rehearsal.

For guidance on hosting a virtual ceremony or one with remote components, visit our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit and Nursing White Coat/Oath Ceremony Toolkit which each include a webinar recording on virtual ceremonies and other resources.

Speakers & Guests

An inspiring and engaging keynote address is an essential component of a White Coat/Oath Ceremony. While many institutions will contract with a known speaker, in many cases an outstanding humanistic dean or faculty member could be appropriate. Speakers should explain why “Keeping Healthcare Human” is a vital and central component of good healthcare, and should describe what compassionate and respectful care looks like.

Starting in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the White Coat/Oath Ceremony to become a virtual event, the Gold Foundation has offered video remarks by healthcare leaders, tailored to medical and nursing schools. Visit our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit and Nursing White Coat/Oath Ceremony Toolkit for more info.

Guests: Invite student families, faculty, deans and other important members of school community. Other possible guests may include the president of the state medical association and the school’s alumni association president. For your first White Coat Ceremony, a representative from the Gold Foundation may be available to attend.


The oath is the central component of any White Coat/Oath Ceremony. Oaths are typically recited once all students have been cloaked and returned to their seats. Schools select an oath that includes a commitment to humanistic patient care, based on their own tradition. It is typically the same oath recited at commencement. Often, directly following the oath, the dean presents the new class to the audience with “And now I present to you the Class of 20–!” whereupon all students turn together to face the audience.


Work with your event site to arrange the ideal audio-visual setup for your event. Discuss with speakers any individual a/v needs. Visit our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit and Nursing White Coat/Oath Ceremony Toolkit to access a recorded webinar offering tips on hosting a virtual ceremony.

Have a photographer or videographer available to record the entire event or at a minimum get pictures of the students as they are cloaked. Decide how and where you will share the images, whether parents and students will be able to get a copy of the video or download photos. Arrange for a class photo.

Share the photos on social media and tag the Gold Foundation on Instagram and Twitter, both @GoldFdtn, and use the hashtag #WhiteCoatCeremony.


A processional and recessional set a celebratory tone for the event. Confirm musical arrangements for your ceremony and ensure they are adequately supported by your event site. For example, a live solo piano or string music will likely need to be amplified to be sufficiently audible.

Ceremony Logistics

White Coat Ceremonies in which students are given clear instructions prior to the event ensure an orderly and enjoyable experience for all. Many logistics that schools use for other large ceremonies, such as commencement, are also useful for White Coat Ceremonies. This includes communicating healthcare protocols, having ushers in place to assist with seating and to assist students across the stage; organizing students in alphabetical line for the processional; having rows stand as a group when instructed by row organizer or usher; asking 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.


A reception following the ceremony provides a celebratory atmosphere and a moment for the community to reflect upon this important moment.  Receptions can be simple (such as an ice cream social) or more formal (catered food and drinks) depending upon the school’s wishes, as well as logistics, healthcare protocols, and financial resources.   

Printed Materials

Arrange the layout, design, printing and quantities of printed materials.

The program should include text of the oath being used, names of participating speakers, class list, history of the ceremony and credit to The Arnold P. Gold Foundation for providing the pins, as well as any other sponsorship credits. Logos for The Arnold P. Gold Foundation can be found in our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit and Nursing White Coat/Oath Ceremony Toolkit.


Possible sponsors for the ceremony include your school’s affiliated hospital or alumni association, or individual alumni donors. Sponsors frequently support costs for such things as the white coats, embroidering, student gifts, reception, or general ceremony expenses.

Press Release & Publication

Drafts of sample press releases are available from the Gold Foundation for use by the school’s public relations office. A sample press release can be found in our Medical White Coat Ceremony Toolkit and Nursing White Coat/Oath Ceremony Toolkit.

Reach out to local publications and media outlets for coverage.

Coordinate with other departments to ensure that the White Coat/Oath Ceremony is mentioned in campus publications and calendars. The orientation letter and calendar for incoming students should mention the White Coat/Oath Ceremony date, time and location.

After the Ceremony

Send thank you notes to special guests, faculty and student participants (ushers, cloakers, etc).

Evaluate the program to plan for future ceremonies.

Send copies of invitations, programs, press articles, photos and videos (links or electronic copies) pertaining to the White Coat/Oath Ceremony to the Gold Foundation. Personal letters from students, parents and medical school personnel are most welcome.

White Coat Ceremonies in other settings

Interested in holding a White Coat Ceremony or related ritual to infuse humanism at care settings and corporate healthcare settings? Organizations should contact Pia Miller, Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development, at

Would you like to share helpful tips with others? We welcome your feedback and ideas. Please email them to Best wishes on your White Coat Ceremony!