White coat ceremony marks new beginning for Rutgers physical therapy students

Jobs for physical therapists are predicted to grow 17% over next decade

On the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences campus in Newark, 68 members of the Class of 2025 recently received their white coats, decorated with the Rutgers School of Health Professions logo and celebrating a milestone in their health care journey.

The coat lets the world know these students are preparing for meaningful service in a physical therapy career.

“The white coat is symbolic of leaving the civilian world and entering into the social contract with the patients,” Nancy Kirsch, a professor, and SHP’s interim department chairwoman, said. “It is a privilege to be a physical therapist, one that has filled me with wonder for over half a century.”

“With each incoming class comes the opportunity to transform and continue to grow the physical therapists of tomorrow,” Michael Majsak, SHP’s physical therapy program director, said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this class of future physical therapists will see their jobs increase by 17%, or by 40,400 positions, from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The ceremony, which takes place during a student’s first year, welcomes future physical therapists into the profession as they begin their clinical rotations. It is often seen as a symbol of authority, professionalism, caring and trust.

“The white coat ceremony started in medicine in the early ’90s. It symbolizes the commitment students have to serve others through their profession,” Majsak said.

After receiving their white coats, the students transition from the classroom to the clinical portion of the program.

Physical therapists see hundreds of thousands of patients each year with various health conditions that impact mobility. They work closely with their patients, helping them regain function and return to their normal activities, whether it is a daily jog or just dressing independently.

“A physical therapy career path offers variety and opportunities for advancement,” Majsak said. “You can choose to practice in several health care settings, and you can also develop one or more specialties throughout your career to advance your knowledge.”

Rutgers’ Doctor of Physical Therapy is a three-year, full-time degree program. The program is housed in SHP’s top-ranked rehabilitation and movement sciences department. Founded in 2013 as part of RBHS, the school prepares its students to think critically and act skillfully to meet expanding health care needs in local and global communities.