on Wearing a White Coat…with 93 other people

We all converged on the CUB auditorium Friday afternoon, whispering, laughing, accompanied by family and friends. Every face was shiny with happiness, satisfaction, and anticipation of the coming event. Every arm was draped with a white button down coat, each emblazoned with the college’s logo. We filed into the front of the auditorium after a long, nervous wait in the hall ( high heels and all…oh the pain!), then calmly (on the outside at least!) took our seats. We absorbed advice and admonition from wise, seasoned people who want the best for us: Dean Pollock, Dr. Brandt, Marian, Cathy Elstad, and others. Then, praying to God that we wouldn’t fall flat on our faces in front of everyone, we marched across the stage to be enrobed in that symbol of the healthcare professional: the white coat. It’s a simple thing, really – just a bright white button down jacket with a stiff collar and a bit of embroidery. But once it is slipped over the shoulders, the wearer takes on a suddenly polished, professional air that reassures and inspires confidence.

We are not simply students anymore; we are student pharmacists. Not “pharmacy students”…that phrase implies that we have yet to assume the role of patient care. No, we are “student pharmacists”, or pharmacists in training, if you will. We have pledged, ” I will” and have lodged the good of the patient at the top of our priority list. We are no longer studying simply for our own sakes, for our grades or our GPA – we are studying to the benefit of our future patients.

Once the white coat is put onto our shoulders by faculty members, we exit stage left (again, thank God, not tripping on our heels) and take the pledge of professionalism. The ceremony echoes the one that will take place in four more years, at which we will recite the Oath of a Pharmacist. For now, we have merely pledged to be professional and ascribe to the absolute highest moral standards. That’s all – no big deal.

The most outstanding thing to me about the ceremony was how much the word family was emphasized. It’s quite wonderful to see the attitude of “We’re a family and we want to help you succeed.” And they do – from the staff & faculty all the way down to my classmates, we’re all rooting for each other.

There is a somber, serious note to all this though: all of the above comes with higher expectations and standards than normal. We are now professionals, a term that envelops high ideals, hard work, and growing up very very quickly.

Tomorrow, we’ll walk into our first class at 8:00 AM, bright eyed and bushy-tailed (hopefully)…if we don’t stay up late thinking about classes and studying and lab and professors and and and and…

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