Just after Mary Berg Barkman graduated from nursing school 45 years ago, she attended her first conference with Nurses Christian Fellowship. It was the first time she received training on caring for the spiritual needs of her patients.
“I grew up in the church but was hungry for how to integrate faith with nursing,” Mary recalls. Mary later joined the NCF staff team to encourage and equip nurses and nursing students to deepen their relationship with God.
Over the years, Mary has learned that being in a care-giving profession and learning to have balance in life is essential. Today Mary continues to appreciate what NCF contributes to the profession of nursing by offering a Christian viewpoint on ethical issues, suffering, death and the spiritual care of patients.
“Nurses who are Christians need help integrating their faith into their profession. Evangelism methods taught within churches are not appropriate for bedside nursing. Secular schools talk about religion, yet there may be obstacles to sharing faith,” Mary said. “Nurses need to know that when this is done within the context of the nursing process, it can be very appropriate.”
Mary has seen that a simple question, such as, what gives you strength to face this illness/crisis, can open a spiritual discussion and assessment of a patient’s needs, more than learning what church the person belongs to. “We know that church affiliation doesn’t tell you about spiritual practice.”
Knowing how to assess a person’s spiritual health and give appropriate spiritual care is a hallmark of good nursing.
See NCF spiritual care resources.