I love my job as a new RN at a medical center, and every day I am passionate about giving my patients the best care possible. But I also have another passion--investing in the spiritual development of nursing students so they can love and serve God as nurses.
God changed my life in nursing school and now, when I am not at the hospital, I am a campus minister with Nurses Christian Fellowship. It is the best of both worlds.
Nursing school is a place of stress and tension, but that’s what makes it spiritually formative. There is pressure to get the highest grades and perform perfectly in clinicals. Students are told that nursing school is something they “just have to survive.” However, I don’t think “survival” is how Jesus wants us to live.
I joined NCF staff because I want to see Jesus renew nursing schools so they become places where students find their security and identity in Jesus, not in how well they did on a test. Rather than just “surviving” nursing school, students can learn to find peace and embrace the opportunities God gives them during these demanding years.
An NCF chapter can have an incredible impact as nursing students learn about God before they graduate and go to work in hospitals and communities all over the world. It gives me so much joy to walk with nursing students as they meet Jesus and follow him. That is why I am returning to campus to work with the NCF group at Virginia Commonwealth University.
A Transformed Life
Last year, I saw God change one student’s life quite dramatically. Amy* was invited to a chapter event by a classmate, then came to a small group Bible study because she liked the people and wanted a community. She was nervous about the Bible discussion, but she didn’t miss a single small group. I could tell that Amy was thinking more about what it meant to follow Jesus and figuring out what she believed.
At a spring conference, students reflected on what was holding them back from saying yes to Jesus. Amy told the group that she had pushed God away for a while, but now she wanted God to come back into her life, and we rejoiced with her! As Amy grew spiritually, I watched her invite classmates to the small group and encourage hesitant new members to get involved. Amy began to lead others in prayer and encouraged them to pray out loud for one another, admitting that she was initially uncomfortable but now she loves praying in the group.
At the end of the year, I asked Amy how her relationship with God had changed. “I was taught as a child to do all the religious things to interact with God—go to church, be good, and say my prayers,” Amy said. “But it’s different now. I know I don’t have to do any of that stuff, but I actually want to do them to know God more.”
I am amazed at how clearly the Lord has worked in Amy’s heart and transformed her from someone hesitant to step foot in a small group to someone who shares her relationship with God with others.
A Vision for Change
This year my vision is to build our identity as an NCF chapter as a growing presence in the nursing school so that students who don’t know Jesus will hear about him. We want to invite others to explore who Jesus is.
I am also excited to watch some of my students step into leadership roles and begin to lead the ministry so that all the members can deepen their understanding of God and how he can use them as nurses.
My biggest hope is that nursing students will place their identity in Jesus—not in nursing—and live out of the freedom that he gives us. They often stop short of all the great things God can do in them and through them in nursing school because they are caught up in the culture of stress and busyness. I pray that NCF will become a place of peace, calm and encouragement in the demanding environment of nursing school.
And I pray that these students will become nurses who are the hands and feet of Jesus, caring for patients and loving them because they are made in the image of God. I’m thrilled to be a part of this life-changing ministry of Nurses Christian Fellowship.
—by Bethany Eckerd, BSN, RN
Read more about how Bethany's academic life as a nursing student was driven by perfectionism—and how it affected her spiritual life as well—in the article, The Disease of Perfectionism.