Skillful Hands, Compassionate Hearts

by Sharyn Kopf—Cedarville, Ohio

    It’s hard enough to go to the doctor’s office, knowing you will have to share intimate details about your symptoms, often while being seen at your most vulnerable. It’s far worse when the treatment you’re receiving comes across as cold, even dispassionate.

    The Cedarville University nursing department recognizes the need for empathetic care, which is why they have made it their mission to focus on an education that is grounded in biblical truth leading to compassion.

    “It’s in all our coursework and in all we do,” says Dr. Janet Conway, Department of Nursing chair. “We’re developing a mindset and attitude of working with patients and families.”

    For the Cedarville faculty, this means remembering — first and foremost — that each person is created in the image of God, and that whatever they do must be done as unto the Lord. When nursing is approached as a ministry, even routine care is affected, because the attitude in how people are seen and treated changes.

    Since ethical decision-making cannot be ignored in today’s health care, using a biblical base remains an imperative.

    “We’re not just following the whims of man,” Conway says. “We’re looking to see what might happen in the future and thinking through the right response to ethical questions.”

    They base their stance on 2 Peter 1:5-8, which presents eight biblical character qualities: faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love. These correspond nicely with the eight semesters in the nursing program. Thus, each character quality becomes a course assignment for the corresponding semester — perhaps a group project or a personal journal — that lets students see how they can apply it to their careers and lives.

    Conway says, “It’s a way of demonstrating, even without words, that we have something within that gives us our character.”

    This approach, added to a required Bible minor, makes the amount of biblical focus in Cedarville’s nursing major unique among comparative programs — even those at other CCCU schools.

    It’s just as important to the students. “The program and faculty really challenge me to apply my faith in the nursing environment,” says Mark Becknell, nursing, ’09. “I especially appreciate the biblical perspective. It’s allowed me to grow spiritually and to be a witness through my clinical rotations and course work.”

Taking It Global
    By following the biblical mandate of compassion, Cedarville makes it a priority to take that belief system around the world through a variety of mission trips and other ministry opportunities.

    “We would like our graduates to be able to use nursing for Christ,” Dr. Chu-Yu Huang, associate professor of nursing, says, “and to influence not just domestically, but globally.”

    This summer a number of students are doing just that. One group of five — along with former department chair Dr. Irene Alyn and Dr. Lois Baker, professor of nursing — is spending four weeks in Togo West Africa. They will work in a hospital, while also visiting area villages where they will help with health care screenings and present the Gospel.

    Another five plan to head to Zimbabwe, but the trip has been temporarily postponed due to the political unrest in that country. The team is waiting for the OK, but anticipates making the journey by the end of June.

    Huang, who is from Taiwan, sets an example by returning to her island home at least once a year. While there, she works with an area university, allowing her many valuable opportunities to speak and teach. “I help my friends in Taiwan in conducting research,” Huang says, “and in developing teaching materials.”

    In addition, many students are on various independent missions. Cedarville University continues to give its future graduates not only the skills they need to succeed, but opportunities to serve God through ministry. The nursing program is a great example of that.

Moving On
    Naturally, this all translates quite well as young people make the transition from college student to career professional. And Cedarville’s reputation for producing the highest quality of nurses is undeniable.

    This transition really gets going the summer between the junior and senior years of the program. Three local hospitals and several others around the country offer externships — a chance for students to hold a job at a hospital while working with an RN. It allows them to apply extended clinical experiences … and get paid in the process. Cedarville nursing students can be found around the country, including one young woman who is working with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

    “It’s a good recruiting tool,” says Conway.

    With that in mind, Cedarville’s excellent reputation continues after getting the diploma. “One graduate just came to visit and said her hospital wants more CU grads,” Conway continues. “In fact, some say they’d hire our students sight unseen. Wherever we’ve had graduates end up in the past, they’re crying for more.”

    Not too surprisingly, nursing is the largest single major at Cedarville, representing 11 percent of the student body. This is one of several reasons the department is taking the next step: developing a Master of Science and Nursing degree (MSN). Another vital reason is the growing shortage of nurses nationwide. In the pressure for health care for all, experts estimate that between 600,000 and one million new nurses will be needed by 2020.

    “This includes not only bedside nurses, but nurses with advanced degrees,” Conway says. “We hope to address some of those needs with a master’s degree.”

    In the meantime, the Cedarville University nursing program will continue to produce superior graduates who have the knowledge, skill and compassion to serve through nursing.

    Will you be one of them?