1. Helming, Mary A.

Article Content

As a teenager, I wrestled with the decision to become a registered nurse (RN) or a teacher. Both professions called to me, but I believe God led me to nursing. In 1976, I graduated from Boston College with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and entered hospital practice. I prayed about pursuing graduate school to become a nurse practitioner (NP); in 1980, I received my Master of Science in Nursing as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and began a career in family and internal medicine practice, occupational and student health, and urgent care.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

Twenty-four years later came the call to teach. With some experience in clinical precepting and teaching classes, I accepted two adjunct teaching positions. An invitation for a full-time faculty role in the new NP program at Quinnipiac University fulfilled my love of two professions: nursing and teaching.


One of my favorite FNP roles was teaching patients about good health. What a joy to watch patients utilize their new knowledge! If you love teaching patients and watching them flourish, perhaps teaching is for you! I take pleasure watching RN students transition to the NP role or seeing prelicensure students become RNs. As faculty primarily for graduate NP students, I was able to thread important, real-life examples from practice into classroom instruction. Students often said hearing real-life experiences was valuable.


Today we face a major nursing shortage. Might you consider adding nursing education to your skills? The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reported that nursing programs in the United States turned away over 75,000 qualified applicants in 2018 because of inadequate faculty and clinical preceptors (AACN, 2020). Numerous scholarship and loan repayment opportunities exist for nurses who become nurse educators. But, a degree in nurse education is not essential in order to teach nursing.


As Christian faculty, we exemplify biblical virtues of patience and kindness in the classroom, lab, and clinical settings. We know that becoming an RN or NP is challenging. Let students know they can confide in you. Be supportive. Life happens and sometimes students need counseling, extra time to complete work, and even brief time off for family emergencies. Spending time with students after class or in your office to explain difficult concepts or just listening can make a difference in their lives and ultimate academic success. Remembering your early practice years can provide sensitivity to student needs. Inform students how you began as a novice RN or NP and share tips for success. Offer to write letters of recommendation, meet their families at important events, and try to keep in touch with graduates.


Although teaching health assessment, care planning, and treatment is the bread and butter of teaching, one of the most important areas I have taught is spirituality in nursing. The Joint Commission mandates spiritual assessment in hospitals, yet so often this mandate becomes only asking about religion and dietary restrictions (Saguil & Phelps, 2012). Because my PhD dissertation was on prayer and healing (Helming, 2009; Helming, 2011), I was able to share my true passion for incorporating spirituality into all of nursing. I introduced students to published spiritual assessments, then distributed copies of three for review. Nurse practitioner students selected the FICA Tool (George Washington Institute for Spirituality & Health, 2020) as the most brief and quick to administer, fostering spiritual assessment.


As a nursing instructor, I have been able to discuss with students the early Judeo-Christian origins of nursing when healthcare was often provided by religious institutions. By making these assignments relevant in practice, I have been able to model that being called to teach also means being called to demonstrate spirituality and Christianity in nursing. Teaching and nursing are both highly satisfying professions. Appropriately incorporating a biblical worldview into the instruction process makes this job even more fulfilling.


American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2020). Nursing faculty shortage.[Context Link]


George Washington Institute for Spirituality & Health. (2020). FICA Spiritual History Tool. [Context Link]


Helming M. A. (2009). Integrating spirituality into nurse practitioner practice: The importance of finding the time. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 5(8), 598-605.[Context Link]


Helming M. B. (2011). Healing through prayer: A qualitative study. Holistic Nursing Practice, 25(1), 33-44.[Context Link]


Saguil A., Phelps K. (2012). The spiritual assessment. American Family Physician, 86(6), 546-550.[Context Link]