By Gordon Govier

Nurturing Christian Nurses

Nurses are in high demand. Nursing schools are struggling to keep up with the constant need for nurses. For Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF), the challenge of connecting with student nurses has become more difficult.


Nursing schools have been forced to innovate, teaching classes at all hours of the day and night, to students on campus and off campus.  “Just being able to come face to face with nursing students on campus has become a real challenge,” said Jane Hall, NCF director. “Not all students are on campus at the same time. Our ministry has changed a lot.”



Staying Active on Campus



But like the demand for nurses, the demand for NCF remains strong. “We had requests from 30 different campuses to start NCF chapters this fall,” Jane said. “We have a small but gifted staff. God keeps bringing new opportunities to us, and we have to keep dealing with them.”



NCF staff have become creative in finding new ways to connect with nursing students. Sometimes the only opportunity is during lunch. If a student is taking a lot of online classes, coming to campus for an NCF meeting can be an extra trip. But students will do it. This past year NCF had groups active at 90 schools of nursing.



Working with Professional Nurses



In addition to being a ministry for student nurses, NCF is a professional organization for all nurses,  nurturing a Christian presence in one of the most compassionate of occupations. When people are suffering, they have questions about God and are looking for life-giving answers. Nurses are in a place to address those questions.



“You have to be sensitive in how you approach people, always asking for permission and not going where a patient doesn’t want to go,” Jane said. A spiritual assessment is part of the normal assessment a nurse should make with any new patient, but beyond asking a couple of questions about religious or church affiliation, interaction may be controlled by institutional guidelines.



“I’ve found that a good practice is to be the light of Christ in an attitude of joy, demonstrating compassion, and taking care of people’s needs attentively,” Jane said. “If I feel the opportunity is right I sometimes ask, ‘Would it be alright if I say a prayer for you as I do my work today?’”



Prayer is one of the best spiritual tools that every nurse can use. “Research tells us that patients rarely say, ‘don’t pray for me,’” Jane said. Nursing professors also use prayer effectively, she related, offering the story of a professor at a community college in Texas who offers to pray for her students 30 minutes before scheduled tests.



“She has had to ask for help from other faculty and students because of the number of students  in different classes who wanted prayer,” Jane said. “Students flock to the room because of their own needs. She’s tried to arrange gatherings at a church and lead Bible studies, with limited success. But this prayer invitation’s response has been remarkable.”



Meeting Patients’ Needs



Jane Hall learned early in life the importance of meeting patients’ physical needs, as she helped her mother take care of her invalid father. “I was four when he came home from the Korean War as a quadriplegic from polio,” she said. “This was my daddy who I dearly loved. I was willing to do anything for him. It was part of our life as a family.”



She later discovered the prevalence of unhealthy emotional needs among some nurses. “A few years into my career I realized that some of my emotional needs were being met by caring for other people,” she said. “The Lord helped me realize that I needed to adjust my thinking and my emotions so that I wasn’t looking for acceptance and approval through nursing.”



Nursing is such not only an in-demand occupation, but it is demanding. Nurses are responsible for the care of their patients and must also respond to their employers, as well as their patients’ doctors. “To thrive in this stressful environment you have to have a firm foundation, which is Christ,” Jane said.



Jane has seen the importance of that foundation during her career in nursing and nursing education. Today Jane finds her new role as director of Nurses Christian Fellowship allows her to share that message with nurses and nursing students across the country.



To read more about the essence of Christian nursing, see this article in the October/December 2010 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing, published by Nurses Christian Fellowship.