Healing for the healers: Nursing students transformed

healing for healers

What do nursing students identify as their top spiritual need? At a recent convention for 3,000 nursing students, an interactive exhibit by Nurses Christian Fellowship asked delegates to tag their top choice: inner peace, significance, belonging, security or comfort. Which would you choose?

“We weren’t sure what to expect when we asked the question,” said Renee Lick, NCF Director of Student Ministries. “But students quickly opened up to us — sharing their struggles and spiritual needs. Their most common desire was for inner peace, followed closely by the need for belonging. They shared some very painful and personal stories with us.”

Many students feel overwhelmed by nursing school and often their relationships are noticeably affected — as well as their care for patients. “We were able to pray with many students who realized that their relationship with God was also suffering during their time in school,” Renee said.

The exhibit was hosted by Nurses Christian Fellowship at the annual convention of the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) in Orlando. Renee and five other NCF staff and volunteers also surveyed students about what is missing in their lives and what they identify as the primary need of their patients. NCF also provided a “Prayer Chair” in the exhibit space for people who asked for prayer, along with a prayer box for people to write down their requests anonymously.

The interactive exhibit, or proxe station, was a springboard into spiritual conversations and sharing the gospel. As the week progressed, it also became a significant place of inner healing, prayer and life-giving hope for those preparing for demanding careers as nurses. Students who opened their hearts about their emotional and spiritual needs were invited to embrace Jesus as the one true healer of body, mind and spirit.

“The students we talked to appreciated having someone ask about — and listen to — their spiritual struggles,” said Renee. “They quickly opened up to us, even those who consider themselves non-religious.”

What’s a proxe station?

NCF staff used an evangelistic three-panel exhibit designed to engage students in conversations that would point them to Jesus. Created by InterVarsity staff Beth Roselius, this “Pyramid of Needs” display was patterned after Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a principle familiar to all nursing students. The three panels of the proxe station gave students an opportunity to respond to questions by placing a ribbon on the area they identified with most:

  • Identify things that are missing in your life: contentment, self-esteem, love, health, food
  • Identify a primary need in your patients: contentment, self-esteem, love, health, food
  • Identify your greatest spiritual need: inner peace, significance, belonging, security, comfort

“It was very powerful watching students and faculty place ribbons in areas that were missing in their lives and in patients’ lives,” said Iriella Banks Gant, an NCF volunteer. “We have a message of light in nursing.” People commented that the NCF exhibit area was a breath of fresh air and had a certain lightness and life to it.

Many students identified love as the top need of their patients. “These young student nurses see patients who are lonely and disconnected from their support systems while in the hospital,” observed Renee. “They want to address that need but often don’t know how.”

Healing in Jesus

Nursing students today reflect a wide diversity of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and life situations. Students talked about painful areas of their lives, such as coping with the death of a parent or recovering from drug abuse. Many of them are led into nursing after experiencing Jesus’ healing in their own lives.

Other conversations at NSNA:

  • One mother gave up her job and went back to school because she felt that God was leading her to pursue nursing.
  • Many students shared feelings of doubt, insecurity and high stress levels.
  • A married student who is often praised by others for her strengths looks to Jesus in her weaknesses and marital struggles.
  • A number of students and faculty are eager to start NCF groups at their schools so others can know the healing power of Jesus.

The future of healthcare

“Students come to this convention excited, fearful, overwhelmed and idealistic about what lies ahead for them in the nursing world,” said Renee. “We help them look to God to change them and provide the confidence they are lacking.”

More than 100 students attended NCF staff Skip McDonald’s special sessions on “Do You Have What it Takes? The Rewards of Nursing in a Challenging World.” God used her words to give them hope and joy about their future in nursing.

Nursing students who open their hearts to Jesus enter the healthcare profession as God’s caregivers to a hurting world. They follow Jesus, the one true healer, in doing the work he loved — the work of healing people.

NCF staff team
NCF team at NSNA 2010

Learn more about Nurses Christian Fellowship, a professional organization and ministry to nurses and nursing students.

Meanwhile, back on campus …

Why is InterVarsity staff Bill Harward so enthusiastic about his ministry with nursing students? In this interview, Bill shares his excitement for starting NCF groups: Open Doors for Nursing Students.

Recommended reading

How can caregivers and healthcare professionals deal with the spiritual needs of people in their care? Author Judy Shelly explains how to offer spiritual support to those facing suffering, illness and other crises in Spiritual Care: A Guide for Caregivers from InterVarsity Press.