If you’re looking for ways to thrive as a Christian nurse in today’s dynamic healthcare environment, you’re in good company.
Without a doubt, nursing is a profession of service to others. It can be an expression of the Christian faith. A Christian nurse who centers their faith in their role can help others while honoring their beliefs and serving God.
One way to thrive as a Christian nurse is to seek those who will empower you to answer the needs of your patients and fulfill the spirit of service.
You can find this support in a community of faith, in a hospital or health delivery setting that centers on Christian precepts, or in an academic environment that promotes a Christ-centered educational philosophy.
Knowing the origins of nursing can be an inspirational way to become or stay connected to the profession as well.
The History Behind Being a Christian Nurse
When speaking of the importance of actively caring for others, the Bible says:
“If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." —James 2:14-17
This is a clear call to actively do the work that God has summoned you to do. If you feel called to nursing, then you are blessed to work in a field that has a history of compassion.
In the earliest days of the Christian Church, women and men cared for the sick as a duty that Jesus set for his followers. In the mid-to-late-19th century, the term “deaconess” was developed to describe women who performed charitable services to the poor and unwell.
According to one article on the subject, “They were Christian women workers whose aim at its core was religious but who also met the needs of the poor through providing for the body: food, clothing, medical care, and education.”
Around the same time, nursing was established as a modern practice by Florence Nightingale.
Nightingale not only brought scientific methodology to the field but viewed nursing as a way to “serve both God and humankind” and to “reduce human suffering” after she received several “calls from God.” However, she was initially deterred from nursing —despite her educational and religious upbringing, as well as having tended to sick relatives—due to her family’s stature in society and desire that she follow more typical paths for women of that time.
Eventually, Nightingale pursued her calling and sought training with deaconesses which became the foundation for her nursing skills. She also valued the importance of patient observation and hospital organization, which helped during the Crimean war. Nightingale became well-known through letters from soldiers and the press for her hard work in improving conditions at the military hospital in Scutari. She was so devoted that she also tended to patients during the night, which earned her the nickname “Lady with the Lamp.” This experience and recognition helped her establish the first scientifically based nursing school, The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital, and also coordinate training for midwives and nurses of poorhouses.
The history behind being a Christian nurse has evolved from terms such as “deaconess” to modern-day practices, shaped by Nightingale and fueled by faith to aid others.
Over time, nursing has established a vivid tradition of serving the vulnerable and sick. Many feel a strong calling to do God’s work in this field, connecting their faith to their vocation.
Tending to Spiritual Needs as a Christian Nurse
While applying nursing science to patient care, it is also possible to apply one’s faith by offering patients spiritual care in recognition of the connections among body, mind and spirit.
This holistic care philosophy is consistent with current nursing practice and is a tenet of modern nursing education.
A recent study on the role of spiritual care in nursing reported that nurses “are aware of the importance of providing spiritual care and are hindered by a lack of education about how best to implement such care.”
The study discussed how acknowledging a patient’s spiritual needs is an “important part of nursing care and assessment” and that nurses who felt they’d received adequate training for spiritual care were more willing to provide it to their patients. Nurses who continue their education around spirituality and have ways to assess their patient’s spiritual needs may better support their healing.
“The Lord nurses them when they are sick and restores them to health.” —Psalms 41:3
Career Trajectory for the Christian Nurse
Registered nurses (RNs) are the single largest cohort of healthcare professionals in the United States; the majority work in medical and surgical hospitals.
The World Health Organization reports that, along with midwives, nurses make up more than half of the world’s healthcare workforce, and as many as 9 million additional nurses will be needed worldwide by 2030.
In some cases, advanced practice registered nurses, (i.e., nurse practitioners) are the only source of professional medical care for people—this is especially prevalent in rural communities, where barely one-tenth of primary care physicians practice in these areas.
On top of this physician deficit, there is also a shortage of nurses in the United States.
Nationwide demand and an increasingly aging population have led to many opportunities in nursing, including a projected growth rate of 7% by 2029.
On top of global health outbreaks like the coronavirus, possibly becoming more common, and growing economic disparities nationwide, nurses are needed more than ever to care for vulnerable and underserved populations.
Nursing is challenging, yet rewarding work. However, compassion is rooted in nursing as it is in the Christian faith. Just as Jesus sought to help people that society forgot or cast aside, a Christian nurse is poised to honor His work and help those in need.
Roles for the Master’s-Prepared Nurse
A Christian nurse who earns a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree can serve as a change agent in an administrative role or in other leadership positions such as a nurse practitioner (NP).
The master’s-prepared nurse is in a position to contribute to the growth of the field, impact future generations of nurses, and directly influence patient outcomes.
How does faith empower the master’s-prepared nurse? Faith can be an asset to administrators as they mentor teams, providing a positive example of resilience for other nurses.
A Christian nurse leader may also take the opportunity to advise nurses on how to care for the spiritual needs of patients, fostering a patient-centered approach.
Serving Others as a Nurse Practitioner
If you’re a Christian nurse who pursues the role of nurse practitioner, you’ll serve a vital need in health care, especially with growing physician shortages in primary care.
Over time, nurse practitioners have demonstrated comparable quality to physicians in delivering patient care and the role has steadily seen more demand.
Nurse practitioners take on various clinical duties, such as:
- Manage a patient’s care
- Order or perform diagnostic tests, such as lab work or X-rays
- Diagnose and treat acute and chronic conditions
- Prescribe medications and other treatments
- Offer counseling
- Educate patients on healthy lifestyle choices to prevent disease
Nurse practitioners work in multidisciplinary teams, sometimes under the supervision of doctors, or, depending on their state’s standards of practice, may work independently. Ranked #3 among 100 Best Jobs of 2021 by U.S. News & World Report, nurse practitioners are poised for a bright future as they make a difference—one patient at a time.
There are several different types of in-demand NP roles as well as different ways to take the next step in your journey as a Christian nurse.
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners
While it is sometimes clear to determine the best way to treat a physical ailment such as a broken bone, a mental ailment may be more complex to heal.
A psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) working in this discipline assesses, diagnoses, and treats the mental health needs of their patients; some ways this is achieved is through therapy and medical management. Understanding the spiritual values of a patient may better guide the approach to the treatment for mental health.
Christian nurses in the PMHNP role may find that their own faith is a constant source of inspiration as they navigate their patients’ mental health needs. They may take to heart what the Apostle John said of Jesus:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” —John 14:27
Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) possess the clinical knowledge and skills to provide high-quality primary care for patients ranging from newborns to adolescents.
The PNP role can be especially rewarding as they not only tend to the needs of young children but also serve as advocates and work alongside families to promote pediatric health and wellbeing.
Christian nurses will thrive in their faith as they pave the way for healthier generations and work with a diverse range of children and families.
“Train children in the way they should go; when they grow old, they won’t depart from it." —Proverbs 22:6
Family Nurse Practitioners
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) care for patients across the lifespan, from birth through adulthood. Their advanced clinical knowledge allows them to provide evidence-based primary care, and they often develop long-term relationships with their patients.
A Christian nurse in the FNP role can have a profound effect on individuals, families, and communities. As an FNP, you’ll be called to support patients through every stage of life.
From childhood vaccinations to annual health screenings for adults and more, FNPs promote health and well-being by encouraging impactful lifestyle changes.
“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” —Isaiah 58:8
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners
Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCs) treat patients from adolescence through adulthood, including the elderly. AGPCs can care for patients in primary care settings or in acute care settings.
AGPCs must learn how to manage complex disease states, along with comorbidities. AGPCs are educated on the vital importance of case management, interdisciplinary collaboration, and how to provide mental, social and spiritual support to aging adults.
A Christian nurse who cares for the elderly is in a special position to honor God’s gift of life.
“And I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety.” —Isaiah 46:4
Serving Others as a Nurse Educator
Earning a master’s degree in nursing education allows registered nurses to serve as teachers and faculty at nursing schools and teaching hospitals. Being a nurse educator helps the field keep up with the demand for nurses in the job market by being able to train and educate future nurses with important experiences and skills.
With a high demand for nurses in the United States, a shortage is occurring for nurse educators as well. As a result, nursing schools have been forced to turn away qualified applicants. Communication and public speaking skills are important for those considering the nurse educator path, as well as several years working as a nurse.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach.” -Romans 12:6-7
Let Your Light Shine as a Christian Nurse
As a Christian nurse, your faith is intricately tied to your calling and how you want to serve the world. As you make decisions about your career path, think of the good you can do by remembering these words from Matthew:
“Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.” —Matthew 15:30
SAU’s online MSN-NP program combines academic rigor with a supportive, faith-based community. MSN-NP students can grow personally, spiritually, and professionally through an education rooted in Christian philosophy.
Choose from the following MSN-NP specialty concentrations:
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
SAU also offers a nurse educator MSN track for those who wish to teach future nurses.
At Spring Arbor, you’ll thrive as a Christian nurse, touch countless lives, and connect your faith to your vocation.
Interested in learning more about how nursing is a calling to serve? Hear from Tonya Devoz on how she felt called by God to pursue her online MSN degree at Spring Arbor.
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