Inaugural nurse practitioner white coat ceremony urges students to be impactful caregivers and leaders

As a symbol of their commitment to compassionate, humanistic and patient-centered care, Quinnipiac’s nurse practitioner class of 2025 donned their white coats for the first time on May 3 during the School of Nursing's inaugural nurse practitioner white coat ceremony.

Beyond the responsibility symbolized by their white coat, the students were urged to transform their passion into purpose as the profession’s next generation of leaders and agents of change.

School of Nursing Dean Larry Slater welcomed the cohort and their families to the special occasion on the North Haven Campus. Slater noted that it was a day that will be forever commemorated as the first white coat ceremony for the school’s nurse practitioner students.

“We have a great group of 47 students that are here to get their white coats today and be the first-ever at Quinnipiac to do so,” said Slater, days before the start of National Nurses Week. “I’m so excited that we also have support systems that are here with you to enjoy this white coat ceremony. I see a tremendous group of friends and family that are here to cheer you on as you get your white coat.”

School of Nursing Senior Associate Dean Lisa Rebeschi introduced keynote speaker Vanessa Pomarico-Denino, a nationally recognized nursing leader, author and educator. Pomarico-Denino currently serves as co-chair of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialty Interest Group.

Pomarico-Denino is a past president of the Connecticut Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Society and Health Policy co-chair. Additionally, she is a leading expert and author on the care of the gender-diverse population. At the School of Nursing, Pomarico-Denino currently serves as a courtesy assistant professor in the nurse practitioner program.

“It’s really quite an honor to be here at the Inaugural White Coat Ceremony,” said Pomarico-Denino. “I commend each of you for taking the courageous step in becoming a nurse practitioner. Your journey starts today and it starts with the white coat.”

Beyond its symbolism, Pomarico-Denino said the white coat carries the weight of responsibility to heal, comfort and advocate for those in need and to provide high-quality compassionate care.

“Today is the gateway to your clinical experiences. This is the start of a journey that reflects your dedication to patient care,” said Pomarico-Denino. “Clinical experiences, to me, are the best part of your education. I want you to get excited about putting into practice everything that you’ve learned in the classroom over the last few years.”

Pomarico-Denino also welcomed the cohort as they prepared to take their place among over 385,000 nurse practitioners in the U.S. today, with over 7,000 in Connecticut. Many have paved the way for the students’ ability to practice to the full extent of their licensure, she said.

“We know that nurse practitioners are responsible for more than one billion patient care visits every year," said Pomarico-Denino. "We’re gaining more volume in numbers and respect due to our knowledge, our expertise and the care that has helped to expand our scope of practice."

Pomarico-Denino also discussed her journey in nursing, including the path that led her to becoming a leading expert in caring for the gender-diverse population.

“If anybody ever told me in 1998 that I would have been standing before you, I would have disagreed," she said. "Because all I wanted to do was pass my boards and start practicing. But along the way I had the chance encounter with a transgender patient and it completely changed the trajectory of my career." 

Saying she realized, "I knew how to take care of their body, I just didn’t know how to speak their language,” Pomarico-Denino sought guidance and information.

“I could not find anyone in the Connecticut and tri-state area that could guide me, so I decided to learn everything I could to help give my patient the best care possible,” Pomarico-Denino said. “It didn’t take long before word got out and more people started to see me who identified as gender-diverse.”

Recognizing the gap in available knowledge and literature led Pomarico-Denino back to school to earn her doctoral degree. She went on to make her mark as an expert in the field of gender-diverse care and has made it her mission to educate others.

Pomarico-Denino encouraged the cohort to embrace the privilege and responsibility of their charge and to care for their patients as they would their own families. She also challenged them to get out of their comfort zone by finding and following the passion that will lead to their purpose and help promote change for the better.

“Imagine better for yourself, for our profession and set your sights on becoming a leader. Our profession depends on you to continue that forward momentum," said Pomarico-Denino. "Never forget the ‘nurse’ in nurse practitioner. Believe in yourself and your ability to make an impact that will effect change and find fulfillment in that profound impact that you’re about to make in the lives of others.”

Quinnipiac Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program Director Erica Colavolpe presented the history of the presentation of the White Coat, established by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation in 1993 at the Columbia University Medical School to highlight the importance of humanism in the care of patients. In 2014, recognizing the vital role nurses play in the healthcare team, the Gold Foundation partnered with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to bring the White Coat Ceremony to nursing.

The members of Quinnipiac’s nurse practitioner class of 2025 received a ceremonial pin from the Gold Foundation as they slipped into their white coats with the help of faculty. Led by Graduate Nursing Programs Chair Laima Karosas, they rose with all nursing professionals in attendance to close the program by reciting the School of Nursing’s White Coat Ceremony Oath.

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