By David Sprayberry

With their hands outstretched and palms open, students from Belhaven’s School of Nursing bowed their heads. “The Bible has something to say about how we approach our vocation,” said Rev. Seth Starkey before he started to pray. “This ceremony is a reminder that every believer is fulfilling their calling when they are busy doing the will of God for the glory of God.”


Blessing of the Hands Ceremony Inspires Belhaven Nursing Students.

In only its second year, the Blessing of the Hands Ceremony has become an annual event that nursing students, staff, and faculty have come to cherish. On October 28, 2015, families and friends gathered for a service that included an inspiring message, worship and a time of prayer and dedication. “An occasion like this is memorable because it is an outward reminder that the Christian faith is supposed to intersect at every area of our lives,” said Rev. Starkey, campus minister of Belhaven’s Reformed University Fellowship.

The growing school of nursing, which has doubled in size, takes a unique stance on the nursing profession. The department sees the practice of nursing as an opportunity to minister to its patients and focus on healing for the body as well as the soul.

At the start of their junior year, every Belhaven nursing student must take part in and complete a certain number of clinical hours in order to graduate. This program places the University’s students in hospitals around the Jackson area. For many, this will be their first time caring for patients and taking an active role in healthcare.

Dr. Barbara H. Johnson, Dean of Nursing, was convinced that this was the perfect time to have the ceremony. “This event is a symbolic gesture of the hands-on work of nurses. It is our hope that everything we do with our hands would be touched with care and compassion. Our hands always need to be tender and a blessing to all we encounter. We see ourselves as being the eyes, ears and hands of Jesus.”

The mission of the department is clear, and they value service to others and understand the impact Christ-centered nursing has in the healthcare arena. “Our students are challenged to transform health care through the uniqueness of Christ-inspired nursing. We believe that our singularity lies in this mission, our experienced faculty, and the quality of our students,” said Dr. Johnson.

When a nurse enters a patient’s room for the first time, they have no idea what kind of situation they are walking into. According to Elise J. Turner, Associate Professor of Nursing, the purpose of the ceremony is to show a link between the art of nursing and the science of the nursing practice. She teaches her students about the process of healing and how to evaluate every new patient for their specific needs. “First, the nurse assesses the patient’s situation, strengths and weaknesses of response and adaptation. Then the nurse works with the patient to tailor the kind of care they need.”

Turner believes it is important to focus on the comprehensive healing of the mind, body and spirit. She said, “Each affects the other. Holistic nursing looks at the person as a whole and assesses the person’s overall response to illness, injury, distress and wellness. We all know that we are dependent on God for the grace to provide care that serves others and glorifies Him.”

The ceremony ended with words of encouragement from Gideon International volunteer Mary Rogues. She then presented students with a pocket Bible to keep in their clinical bag and use when needed. “The pocket Bible goes where they go, and it is a constant reminder of God’s sufficiency and our mission to serve others in the nursing profession,” adds Dr. Johnson.

Rev. Starkey closed the service with a reminder to students that God is the source of and encouragement and sustainment when the struggles of life present themselves. “Nursing is a profession filled with brokenness and loss, but there is joy in the Lord. Thankfully, God has promised to meet His people in the midst of that and help them to remain faithful through the trials of work.”

David Sprayberry is the Assistant Director of Communications at Belhaven University. He can be contacted at