Mary Thompson - A legacy of Christian nursing

June 28, 2007

“Nursing as Ministry” is the theme of the national summit for nurses and nursing students taking place this week on the campus of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. The summit is sponsored by InterVarsity’s Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF). And no one embodies the theme of “Nursing as Ministry” so well as Mary Thompson, the outgoing director of NCF.

Mary’s father was a Lutheran pastor and her mother was a nurse; she grew up in a family involved in care for the body and the soul. She was introduced to InterVarsity before she was even in college – her father was on InterVarsity’s mailing list. She was anticipating getting involved with InterVarsity when she arrived on the University of Minnesota campus. “I looked at the student newspaper to find out where the student group met, and I’ve been involved ever since,” she said.

Mary became NCF director in 1984, upon the retirement of Grace Wallace. Through the Journal of Christian Nursing (JCN), national and regional nursing meetings, Email list-servs, and other outreach activities, she has worked tirelessly to promote the Christian values that lie at the heart of nursing.

During Mary’s tenure arrangements were made with accrediting agencies to allow nurses to obtain continuing education credits through NCF meetings and JCN articles. Last year an agreement was negotiated for JCN to be distributed and marketed through Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, an internationally renowned healthcare publisher. Since then the number of subscriptions has increased by 14 percent and a growing audience has become aware of NCF’s mission to help men and women practice nursing from a biblical perspective.

At a chapel held recently at InterVarsity’s National Service Center, Mary recalled a nursing student at the University of Wisconsin named Jeff who called the office one day. He was taking a class on death and dying and wanted to share a faith perspective in the class. Mary ended up leading Bible discussions in the University Hospital cafeteria. “I never knew the Bible had anything to do with nursing,” one student participant admitted. “That’s what we’re about, bringing the Bible – the Word of God – into the context of nursing,” Mary said.

At the chapel service Mary was presented with a recognition plaque by InterVarsity president Alec Hill. The plaque read, “Thank you for your commitment to bringing God’s love and justice to nursing education and practice.”

Vice president Barney Ford recognized three contributions of what he called Mary’s “marvelous legacy.”

  • “Your nursing career has set a standard for what it means to think through a profession from a Christian worldview.
  • “It’s a privilege to see what happens when somebody is able to receive the love of Jesus in their lives and go deep in the Scriptures long term, through the good times and the challenges.
  • “You have modeled what you want nurses to do by the way you’ve been present for us here. You’ve walked with us through illnesses that became terminal illnesses. You’ve cared for individuals and families in ways words cannot adequately express.”

Although Mary is stepping down as NCF’s director she’s not quite ready to leave InterVarsity’s nursing ministry. As new leadership is installed, Mary is transitioning into new responsibilities that will include a fund development role. She will continue to use her talents and experience to help NCF better serve the nurses of the future.

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Listen to the audio from the chapel service honoring Mary Thompson.
You can make a direct financial donation to support Nurses Christian Fellowship by following this link.