By Alexa Binkowitz
On Sept. 9, The College of Nursing held its 5th annual Blessing of the Hands ceremony in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
The ceremony, specifically for junior and senior nursing students, highlights the importance of a nurse’s hands and also signifies the beginning of the clinical process for the junior class.
“The Blessing of the Hands is the modern symbol of the meaningfulness of being able to touch people, but not just physically, also emotionally, spiritually and mentally,” said Dr. Mary Alice Donius, the dean of the College of Nursing.
The ceremony was officiated by Father Bruce, President John Petillo, and faculty members from the College of Nursing.
Juniors were asked to step forward and have their hands anointed with holy oil and then a white lab coat was placed on their shoulders, with assistance from senior nursing students.
The holy oil symbolizes the spiritual and ministerial work that embraces the nursing profession, and allows students to think about the importance of their hands and the work they will do in the future.
“The ceremony highlights the significance that goes beyond the tasks that nurses do. It really depicts the commitment we make to the privilege of caring for patients, and the hands are just one symbol of that commitment,” said Donius.
The ceremony itself is a celebration of the work that nurses do every day, as well as a way to prepare the juniors for the final stages of their education.
It is also a way to incorporate Sacred Heart’s dedication to spiritual development and commitment to excellent care through the nursing curriculum.
“I’ve always thought that Sacred Heart is a beautiful metaphor for what it means to be a nurse,” said Donius. “That ‘sacred heart’ of nursing is nurtured and recognized here in a Catholic college that allows for this blessing of the hands, which symbolizes all the work that we do.”
Nursing students were also appreciative of the ceremony’s purpose and influential integration into their nursing education.
“This ceremony is a crucial part of my nursing education because I think it’s a small way to show students, including myself, that each patient we take care of is a life, and their life is in our hands,” said junior nursing student Cara Desrosiers. “Every decision we make as nurses should be for the absolute best care of our patients, and to ensure their life is safe in our hands.”
The clinical process, which allows students to get hands-on experience working with patients and in specific care areas, begins in the student’s sophomore year, then more intensely as a junior, and continues into senior year.
“Nursing is one of those things you can do a hundred different things with, and you need to try a lot of different areas to really understand which career path is best for you,” said Desrosiers.
The ceremony also established a relationship between nursing and prayer, which encompasses Sacred Heart’s vision for the education of its nursing students.
Juniors were given a prayer card, titled, “Prayer for Exams,” which was written by professor Kerry Milner and professor David Cameron.
The prayer card works to connect nursing students with the spirituality and faith that could help them provide the best care for patients in the future.
“In this highly technological world, hands make all the difference, because they can do what technology can’t, and that’s touch people emotionally and mentally,” said professor Milner, who was also an organizer of the Blessing of the Hands ceremony.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, junior students were told to write themselves a letter that would be given back to them on their graduation day, to signify the hard work and dedication that is required in order to complete a nursing education.
“The students are really transformed by it, and the families are moved by it,” said Donius. “While nurses do a lot of physical tasks, those tasks are intended for healing, and we do them with more than just our hands.”