Merrimack Doubles Up on Blessing of the Hands and White Coat Ceremonies

In an important milestone for nursing students – some of whom have been waiting since the start of the pandemic – Merrimack hosted both the White Coat and Blessing of the Hands ceremonies on Saturday, Nov. 13.

In 2019, Merrimack welcomed its first class of nursing students. Shortly after, the College cut the ribbon on its brand new Nursing Center in January 2020 – just before the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Center offers high fidelity simulation manikins, six simulation labs and equipment used in real-world clinical settings, such as IV pumps, hospital beds, oxygen flow meters and a medication administration system. All resources center experiential learning and hands-on training for the frontline workers of tomorrow.

This fall, after delays to in-person gatherings due to the pandemic, the nursing program was able to hold its first White Coat Ceremony and its inaugural Blessing of the Hands for first-year students, sophomores and juniors.

Human touch is such a vital part of health care,” said Lynne Sheppard, undergraduate nursing program director and associate clinical professor. “The hands of a nurse are steady as they administer medications, change a wound dressing, help someone through a painful procedure and bring healing to the broken. A blessing of the hands ceremony recognizes this significance, while also respecting the spiritual aspects found in physical care.”

Merrimack students from the class of 2023 and 2024 were recognized at the 2021 Blessing of the Hands ceremony. Typically, the hands are blessed in a student’s sophomore year of study. Since the ceremony was not possible in fall 2020, the class of 2023 joined the current sophomore class in the Roger Center for the Arts.

Speakers included Associate Dean of the School of Health Science Traci Alberti, Provost John “Sean” Condon, Ph.D., and a gospel and homily from Fr. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A.

“The Blessing of the Hands is a spiritual experience aligned with Merrimack’s Augustinian Catholic heritage and values, which focus on the human and spiritual development of the whole person and on the continuous improvement of our community as caring, spiritual and inclusive,” said Sheppard in her remarks to students and their guests.

The ceremony also welcomed friends and family to celebrate the spiritual and professional milestone. That same day – Saturday, Nov. 13 – first-year and sophomore students in the nursing program were doubly honored in the inaugural White Coat Ceremony, also held in the Rogers Center.

Established by the Gold Foundation in 1993, the White Coat Ceremony is intended for first-year students in medical, nursing and physician assistant programs. The Ceremony is a rite of passage that often takes place during the initial days of orientation. It serves to welcome students to healthcare practice and elevate the value of humanism as the core of healthcare. It provides a powerful emphasis on compassion in combination with scientific excellence.

This ceremony aligns with Merrimack College’s mission to engage hearts, enlighten minds and teach generations of nursing students to empower lives – their own lives and the lives of their patients. Merrimack students from the class of 2024 and the class of 2025 were welcome along with family and guests to receive their white coats, a garment as practical as it is symbolic of the future they are undertaking both on campus and in the world beyond.

“The White Coat Ceremony is a symbolic step that launches our nursing students into their professional journey,” said Condon in his opening remarks. “As an institution of higher learning, it is a great honor to be educating the next generation of nurses who will change the future of patient care.”

Learn more about Nursing at Merrimack