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Integration of Faith & Learning > Examples of Integrative Questions by Discipline

Integration Questions for the Discipline of Nursing

Carla D. Sanderson, Ph.D., RN
Provost and Professor of Nursing
Union University

Questions for Students:

Upon what values is the discipline of nursing based?
We think of Christian higher education as value-added education.  Do we live up to that claim?  The profession of nursing gives ample opportunity for values based discussion.  The list of essential nursing values and behaviors as identified by the American Association of College of Nursing is an excellent springboard for such a discussion.  The values listed there include altruism, equality, esthetics, freedom, human dignity, justice and truth.  Each provides an opportunity for the nursing student to explore their own attitudes and personal qualities as they examine the professional behaviors expected.  From a biblical perspective on esthetics to an examination of truth, spelled with a capital T, classroom discussions and written assignments on the topic of values provides and early and sure opportunity for faith integration.

We talk a lot in nursing about basic human needs and how we as nurses can help others meet these needs.  How can a Christian world and life view help inform this discussion?
Every nursing foundations course provides for an exploration of basic human needs.  From basic physiologic needs such as clean air and water, nutrition, shelter, rest, and sexual expression to safety and security, love and belonging, and esteem and self-actualization, the biblical basis for human need is rich and complete.  As we encourage diagnoses we can challenge them to consider the biblical view of human need.  We can stretch them and encourage them to draw on their understanding of human beings in relationship to an almighty God, in relationship to one another and in relationship with God's created order as they plan and implement their care.

How do you apply a Christian worldview as the conceptual basis for nursing care?
The conceptual basis for nursing practice addresses issues found in all patient care settings.  These concepts are helpful ways of viewing nursing care and can assist the nurse in assessing the presence or absence of important phenomenon, thereby identifying strategies aimed at providing the right care at the right time.  Not only do these concepts help recognize nursing strategies that are needed to relieve problems they also allow the nurse to build on patient strengths, with the goal of facilitating long-term coping and adaptation.  Some concepts such as stress, disease, pain, chronicity, crisis and violence can be explored from a biblical view, gleaning strategies effective for nursing care today from stories told long ago.  Come concepts such as social support, coping, empowerment and hope find their richest definitions and bases from scripture.  Major life themes such as sexuality, parenting, loss, and aging likewise can be conceptualized using truths we read in the scripture.

Discuss issues currently facing the practice of nursing and their moral and ethical implications.
Perhaps the one place where most Christian nursing faculty feel at home is in their classroom discussions of ethical considerations of current issues.  We talk about ethical theory in terms of utilitarianism, deontology, etc.  In fact, ethics classes are the most common modus operandi for integrating faith within our curriculum.  We can do more.  We can use morality-based discussions in every class, with almost every theme.  In issues classes we can talk about the moral dilemmas inherent in health care reform.  In theory class we can design a classroom discussion or assign a paper around a question such as, "What would Rogers and Roy have had to say about the ethics of stem cell research?"  In family nursing class we can consider why abortion is THE issue of the 20th century.  In adult health class we can explore the moral questions surrounding end of life care.  In community class we can address violence and issues of moral development of today's youth.  A Christian nursing education seeks every opportunity in every course to integrate biblically based answers to morality-laden issues.

Other:  For the Christian nurse, what is meant by "therapeutic use of self?"

An Important Question for Nursing Curriculum Committees:

How can the curriculum encourage the development of integrative decision making?
A Christian nursing education, in order to be distinctive and faithful to its purposes, must provide a curriculum that encourages students to develop the capacity to judge wisely in matters of life and nursing practice.  Ernest Boyer once said, "Time must be taken for exploring ambiguities and reflecting on the imponderables of life - in the classroom, in the rathskellars, and in bull sessions late at night.  The goal is not to indoctrinate students, but to set them free in the world of ideas and provide a climate in which ethical and moral choices can be thoughtfully examined, and convictions formed."  The lessons clinical rotations provide nursing students are real and the opportunities they will as practicing nurses are even more real.  Many of our students come to use with life experiences that have prepared them to judge wisely.  Many come to Christian nursing programs with sound, well-developed theologies and a passion for sharing biblical truth.  Christian nursing schools MUST seize the opportunity to mold these minds and help them develop the knowledge and skills needed to judge wisely in today's health care arena.  We must take advantage, when possible, to maximize the benefits of a liberal arts education.  We must design opportunities in class, in the hospital post-conference room, and in the dorm room study session late at night for our students to explore Truth and to reflect on their practice as instruments of it.  None of us can imagine what medical science will yield in the next 100 years.  Therefore, we must carefully design nursing curricula that will equip students to think well about these matters, that will set them loose to wrestle with ideas and that will encourage them strongly to be decisive with the convictions they form.



"The way to be confortable is not by having our barns filled, but our minds quiet."
-Thomas Watson, 17th century English, non-conformist, Puritan preacher