Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing

Importance of Ceremonies

Nursing administration at UW believe that traditions and ceremonies are important, since they promote a sense of belonging, bringing people together. This particular ceremony--the Willow Ceremony--is different from the celebration that occurs at the end of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program after students graduate. The Willow Ceremony celebration is midstream, positioned so that faculty and students can be together and take note of the wonderful profession students are being prepared to enter.

In 2009, when Loretta Ford (co-founder of the Nurse Practitioner movement in America) visited UW and heard about the Willow Ceremony, she said something most important in support of ceremonies....

"Traditions vitalized by ceremonies, such as the Willow Ceremony, help socialize new generations of professional nurses as they reach and respond to changing health care needs. These events build a sense of community solidarity and bind individuals to institutions for life. As nurse practitioners come of age, they need rites of passage--such as the Willow Ceremony--to mark the occasion."

Why "Willow"?

The Willow Ceremony celebrates the end of the first year of didactic studies in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, encouraging students as they prepare for the program's clinical component. Some programs have a “White Coat” ceremony at this point in the program, when students are about to don their clinical garb and step out into the real world of clinical practice. But the UW DNP students are already nurses, and most have already been working in the clinical setting (with or without a “white coat”). So a White Coat ceremony didn't seem appropriate.

So the UW Nursing DNP ceremony was named "The Willow Ceremony." The willow, according to a poem penned by School of Nursing namesake Fay W. Whitney, "is symbolic of what nurses have always been. They grow, they bend, they last."

A number of years ago, a classmate of DNP Program Director Ann Marie Hart, Dr. Linda Campbell, created a video documentary of the earliest NP pioneers. She titled her video, "The Wisdom of the Willow--Capturing the Spirit of the Nurse Practitioner." Dr. Campbell's choice of willows was appropriate; nurse practitioners share many willow-like qualities:

  • Willows are strong.
    Over the years nurse practitioners have had to contend with much opposition, oftentimes from physicians and other health care providers, even from nurses themselves. Nurse practitioners had to be strong to survive criticism from their peers.

  • Like willows, nurse practitioners are also deeply rooted.
    Nurse practitioners are deeply rooted in nursing, in health promotion and disease prevention, and in holistic, client-centered care.

  • Also like willows, nurse practitioners are flexible.
    ...and have shown an amazing ability to adapt and even thrive in changing or unsettling times.


page updated 5/4/2018

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