A New Calling, and No Longer On Call

November 14, 2007

One of the benefits of her new job as director of Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF) is that Pat Emery is no longer on call, as she has been for much of her professional life. She didn’t realize how much she would appreciate that. “I’m not tied to a cell phone or a pager as I was,” she says.

Now, instead of being responsible for the nursing care in one facility, she’s responsible for the spiritual care of nursing caregivers across the country. As she puts it, “the Lord has enlarged my borders.”

On October 1, 2007, at the age of 59, Pat Emery took over as NCF director following a 25-year career in nursing administration. Her most recent job was director of nursing at a long term care facility in Bluffton, Ohio.

“I have a background with NCF and InterVarsity,” she says. It was NCF that originally brought her to faith in Jesus Christ, as a student at the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing in 1968; she was on staff with NCF from 1975-1977.

After a few years of nursing, Pat set her sights on nursing administration. Her first position after getting a Master’s degree was director of home care for the Lima (Ohio) Memorial Hospital. “The move to administration was exciting to me,” she said.

She moved on to become director of nursing at a small hospital and then vice president of nursing for a two-hospital system in Ohio. “I got a lot of good administrative experience and had a lot of interpersonal training,” she says.

In 2002 she reconnected with NCF when she was invited to speak on moral leadership at NCF’s national convention. She was also invited to serve on NCF’s national advisory committee.

She enjoyed working with NCF director Mary Thompson on visioning NCF’s future. And then Mary announced that she would be retiring soon.

“I left that meeting knowing that I needed to pray for Mary as she faced retirement, and for the new director,” she recalled. “As I prayed this still small voice said ‘I want you to consider this.’ I kept saying ‘no, you don’t mean me.’ And He said ‘Yes.’”

Ultimately Pat realized that her background and experience, all of the leadership opportunities that she’s had, made her a strong candidate for the job. “The Lord has gifted me with leadership ability,” she says. “Mentoring people and developing people to their fullest potential is my passion.”

As she begins her new job, her two priorities are building strong relationships between NCF and other parts of InterVarsity, and organizing NCF to work as efficiently as possible.

NCF has strengths that would lend well to InterVarsity,” she believes. “We’re very good in the professional alumni arena. But right now our student ministry is not as strong, and we really need to reestablish that. We need to look strategically at where we grow.”

NCF currently has only 16 paid staff. Last year’s reports show 110 student nurse groups and 62 practicing nurse groups. New student groups and new practicing nurse groups have already started up this fall, several dozen apiece.

Visiting in Philadelphia recently, Pat says she was energized to meet with students and graduate nurses, “who are excited to know that there’s something out there to offer them support from a Christian worldview.”

As baby boomers age, the demand for nursing will continue to grow. But the number of nurses is declining—2.4-million today is down from 2.7 million five years ago. Nurses are being recruited from abroad, such as from the Philippines, and other countries. There are many ministry opportunities.

“That really is where I see our ministry being most effective, integrating faith in life and practice,” Pat says. “Nurses want to do that, because they face life and death everyday. That can be a crisis point in their lives. They need to understand what life and death is all about.”

Talking about spiritual needs is a hot topic in the nursing industry. But the new viewpoints of Muslim and Hindu doctors from abroad are different than what many Americans are used to.

“Everybody wants to be spiritual but it means so many different things to different people,” she says. “We consider ourselves a Christian voice in nursing.”

Nursing is becoming more and mores stressful, with health care costs going up along with Medicare and Medicaid cuts. Nurses are working more hours and the stress is taking a toll.

Traveling and meeting new people are aspects of her new job that Pat Emery enjoys. For now she’s continuing to live in the Bluffton area, so that she can keep connected to her friends and her home church, St. John Mennonite Church of Pandora, OH.

“I love the Lord and this is what the Lord has called me to do. I’ll do it with all my heart as long as He gives me energy and strength,” she says.