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Doctorate of Nursing Practice students celebrated at Bay Path’s White Coat Ceremony

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Nurse Katelyn Robeson receiving her White Coat and pin.

A cohort of nurses stepped into the next phase of their education, as an audience of beaming parents, proud partners, and playful children cheered them on at Bay Path University’s inaugural White Coat Ceremony to honor students in its Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)/Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program. The ceremony, held at Bay Path’s Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center in East Longmeadow, marked the beginning of the clinical practicum for its first class of doctoral nursing students.

The White Coat Ceremony is a national rite of passage for those pursuing degrees in the healthcare profession, signifying transition to clinical placements, where students are expected to apply the learning of the classroom to the treatment of patients. Although Bay Path launched its DNP degree program in 2018, the pandemic prevented students and staff from gathering for a formal ceremony.

“This group in particular represents hard work, tenacity and optimism. They are the first students to be a part of this program, and they’ve chosen to continue their nursing education and renew their commitment to service during one of the most challenging periods for healthcare workers,” said Linda Adams-Wendling, PhD, Chief Nurse Administrator and Program Director of the University’s DNP program.

Students in Bay Path’s DNP/FNP program complete coursework online and are required to complete a minimum of 1,000 practice hours for the DNP/FNP degree, half of which half include supervised clinical immersion practicums, divided among five areas of primary care: adult and adolescent care, women’s health, geriatrics and chronic illness, pediatrics, and mental health.

For student Katelyn Roberson, a nurse at Mercy Medical Center, the White Coat Ceremony signified the beginning of a new phase of career evolution, bringing her closer to a long-term goal of running a community-based health clinic in Springfield. “Stepping into my clinical work, when I walk into that room to treat a patient, I’m being challenged to shift my approach and change my role from nurse to practitioner. I’m doing advanced exams, I'm writing practitioner notes, I’m anticipating treatment.”

“I was a CNA for 10 years, working in a hospital, observing nurses, and I knew I wanted to take it up a notch,” she explains. “I had the ‘art' of patient care down pat, and I wanted to bring that science portion into it.”

Roberson, who also serves as Vice President of the Western Massachusetts Black Nurses Association, felt that earning her doctorate could position her to have far reaching influence on healthcare in her community. “The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. As soon as I earned my bachelor’s, my mentors started encouraging me to think about what I would do next,” she notes. “I wanted to teach, get into research, dive into equity versus equality, and look at healthcare among people of color and underserved communities.”

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners estimates that by the middle of the decade, nearly one in three primary care providers nationwide will be nurse practitioners, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the job outlook for NPs is expected to grow by 28% between 2018 and 2028, compared to overall job growth of just 5% for all occupations.

Please visit the Doctor of Nursing Practice program page to learn about curriculum, faculty, program options and more!