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More than 40 years ago, God placed a desire to start a Christian nursing program in the hearts and minds of Cedarville University Leadership. Then, one by one, He brought godly faculty member to the then-college to make it happen. Cedarville Magazine reached out to these founding faculty members to hear about their experiences. The nursing program could not have begun without the efforts of these dedicated faculty, and the School of Nursing owes a debt of gratitude to them for their perseverance and commitment to excellence. Hear from Irene Alyn, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Nursing and founding Chair (IA), Janet Conway, Senior Professor Emerita of Nursing and former chair (JC), and Mark Klimek, Associate Professor Emeritus of Nursing (MK), as they share their experiences from building this program from the group up.
Q: As founding faculty, why do you think it was important to start a nursing program at a Christian college like Cedarville?
MK: In the early 1980s, there were few Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) programs in evangelical Christian colleges and universities. There were only a couple in which the curriculum and conduct were grounded in biblical truth.
IA: In many healthcare settings, nurses provide outstanding physical care, but due to time constraints or excessive patient care loads or lack of knowledge or interest, they do not focus on emotional or spiritual care. Unlike unbelievers, Christian nurses have the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit to enable them to provide spiritual care, as well as physical care.
JC: From my perspective, nursing at a Christian university is a ministry for Jesus Christ. We are able to meet people in often vulnerable situations and provide comfort, care, and listening ears as Christ did in the Gospels.
Q: What obstacles or risks did you have to overcome as the nursing program was getting started?
MK: A major obstacle early on was that Cedarville’s culture was decidedly and strongly liberal arts focused. A professional degree program did not fit much of the academic structure and process already in place. Now, years later, the strong liberal arts tradition is a strength of the current program.
JC: The biggest obstacle was convincing the faculty that nursing was a scholarly endeavor. Since nursing was the first professional discipline at a liberal arts institution, we had to convince several long-standing liberal arts professors that nurses needed this type of education.
Q: How did you see God’s hand at work as the nursing program began?
MK: I saw God’s hand move in the eagerness of the local, nonreligious healthcare community to facilitate the establishment of the program. Institutions that had no interest in the Gospel became some of our greatest champions. Nothing could explain that except God at work.
JC: God always provided the faculty with the appropriate clinical specialty just at the right time for teaching courses. Area hospitals and physicians were very supportive of a baccalaureate nursing program for the Miami Valley, and they gave spaces for clinical experiences and helped us to obtain needed equipment and supplies.
Q: What type of culture did you try to create in the early days of the program?
IA: All the faculty were Christians committed to educating Cedarville University students to use nursing as a ministry for Christ. We would say to our students, “It’s not about me, and it’s not about you either. It’s about Christ.”
MK: From the very beginning, we followed Dr. Alyn’s lead in creating a culture of nurture and high expectations. We set the bar high for ourselves and the students, but we were quick to nurture and enable students and each other to meet those goals.
Q: What made Cedarville’s nursing program stand out among other programs?
MK: I think the most unique essence of the School of Nursing at Cedarville is that it is grounded in God’s Word. When we first developed the school philosophy and mission, we threw out the secularly tainted definitions of core nursing concepts such as human, illness, wellness, care, life, and suffering and defined them biblically. That foundation is singularly distinguishing even within other evangelical schools.
JC: Additionally, the B.S.N. degree was identified as stronger preparation than other nursing degrees. Many hospitals and clinics in the local area are eager to employ Cedarville graduates and state they are the best nurses at their facility.
Q: What are your favorite memories from your time at Cedarville?
JC: I remember in the early days the very limited classroom and laboratory space for teaching students. Mark and I would often carry mannequins and supplies across the campus to be able to teach the students.
MK: I remember carrying the life-sized simulation mannequins from a Founders Hall closet across campus to the old library, losing body parts all along the sidewalk.
JC: But my best memories are of the many relationships with students and faculty. I often meet or hear from a graduate and recall the times in class and clinicals with them. It is my joy to hear about what they are doing in using nursing as a ministry in their lives.
Q: What are your hopes and prayers for the Cedarville School of Nursing for the next 40 years?
JC: I pray that the nursing program will remain true to the biblical foundation upon which it was built. As the School of Nursing expands, it is vital to maintain the Bible courses, liberal arts foundation, and strong academic focus on nursing as a ministry for Jesus Christ.
MK: I pray that the administration, faculty, and students never abandon the centrality of the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ. I pray that they will continue to see themselves as blessed servants who use nursing as a ministry for Christ.
IA: Pray without ceasing. Keep focused on your mission. Trust God; He provides.