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Annual ‘Blessing of the Hands’ ceremony focuses on students’ spirituality

Gold Foundation grant funds ceremonial blessing of future nurses’ hands

Fourth annual Blessing of the Hands ceremony for nursing students at Sacred Heart University's Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek 10/2/15

Junior and senior nursing majors marked their entry to upper division clinical practice with a “Blessing of the Hands” ceremony last semester in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Father David Buckles presided over the ceremony, which has taken place annually at SHU since 2012.

“By this time in the undergraduate nursing curriculum, students are expected to approach patient care holistically, including incorporating spirituality into their nursing practice,” says Kim Foito, clinical assistant professor in SHU’s College of Nursing. “In the ceremony, we focus on the students’ development of their spirituality because students need to recognize their own spiritual beliefs and needs before they can recognize these aspects in their patients and provide humanistic care.”

In the ceremony, seniors wear a traditional undergraduate first professional degree uniform and lab coat, while juniors enter with a lab coat draped over their forearm. Juniors are then “coated” by the seniors, have their hands blessed and receive a laminated, pocket-size prayer card to use during exams and clinical practice. By the end of the ceremony, all students and faculty are wearing a lab coat to signify congruence among all levels of nursing.

This year’s ceremony was made possible with a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to support the Gold-AACN White Coat Ceremony for Nursing. Sacred Heart was one of 60 universities selected to receive this grant.

“As the health-care provider who spends the most time with patients, nurses must embrace the need to provide compassionate care as an essential element of their professional practice,” said AACN President Eileen T. Breslin. “With health care becoming more patient-centered and team-driven, nurses, physicians and other providers must embed humanism in their practice as a way to elevate the patient care experience and improve care outcomes.”

The University’s College of Nursing comprises undergraduate, graduate, online and certificate programs leading to a bachelor’s of science in nursing, master’s of science in nursing or doctor of nursing practice degree, as well as RN to BSN, RN-BSN-MSN and FNP programs. The programs are designed to advance nursing careers to best meet the community’s health care needs.