Through love and truth, Christian nursing education can influence those who are not believers. The following story reflects an opportunity for integrating faith and care for nonbelievers.
As the coordinator of a nursing program, I was contacted by an adjunct faculty member due to a “problem” student in her course. Weekly, there was a devotional with a discussion post and response. Katrina* didn’t want to participate because she was an agnostic or atheist. I could sense that the faculty member's emotions were rising, so I asked the faculty member to have Katrina contact me directly for a discussion.
Finding Common Ground
Katrina called, and I first simply asked her to share her thoughts and anything else she wanted to voice. She seemed surprised that I wanted to hear her perceptions and that I was willing to listen instead of telling her what to do. After Katrina expressed what she felt were unfair expectations, she stopped and asked if I understood her point of view. I thanked her for being open and affirmed that I could understand her perspective but wanted to share a similar experience I had when taking a course at Hebrew Union College. I had understood that Hebrew Union College was a Jewish university, and in fact, that was one of the reasons I wanted to take the course—to gain that transcultural experience. I had understood that, in many discussions, I would need to examine the teachings from a Jewish perspective, even if those teachings did not align with my personal beliefs.
I asked Katrina if she could participate in her course in a transcultural manner, researching and responding as she thought a practicing Christian nurse would, even if it was not her personal belief. If Katrina felt more comfortable including a post explaining that this is how she was approaching the discussion, this would not be a problem. She agreed, thanked me, and decided to stay in the program. According to the faculty member, Katrina became a wonderful student and provided excellent, thought-provoking posts.
A Win-Win Option
After graduation, Katrina emailed me to say thank you for talking and listening to her and helping her to see a win-win option. Her email ended with this positive comment: “I'm not yet a true believer, but I’m at least open to considering that it might be possible.”
I was pleased to meet Katrina where she was and to plant a seed that might one day grow and flourish.
*Name changed for privacy.
Linda S. Rieg, PhD, RN, CNE, is a professor at Indiana Wesleyan University School of Nursing. Her teaching and research interests include spiritual care and theory. She has served as research advisor to students studying the concept of caring.
This post is excerpted from the the article, “Why Christian Nursing Education?” in the July/September 2021 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing. Check out the 2021 Directory of Christian Nursing Schools is in the same issue.