1. Hermanns, Melinda
  2. Gipson, Christine S.

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, graduate students' stress levels have been palpable. Students frequently are asked by their employers to work overtime to meet increased patient census or short staffing levels. A typical graduate student is a practicing registered nurse employed full-time in various positions, including bedside nursing, administration, education, and the military. Although communication in an online environment is always paramount, nursing faculty quickly pivoted at the onset of COVID-19 to incorporate additional means of communication to reach out, support, and encourage students.

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Regardless of our geographic location, we all have navigated uncertainties and thus have shared a common bond. Though people worldwide have become more accustomed to virtual platforms, the online environment can feel isolating. As new viral waves have come and gone, we have witnessed firsthand the pandemic's impact on our graduate students working on the frontlines. Though we may not contribute directly on the frontlines, it has been an honor to walk alongside students and offer support during these trying times.


One strategy faculty introduced into online classes was a wellness check discussion board. The purpose was to check in with the students, provide resources including stress management, availability of free virtual mental health support groups, words of encouragement, and to offer a medium for students to engage with each other, often sharing tips for coping. Engagement blossomed when faculty posted discussion check-in prompts such as, "Just checking in" or "Would you like to share something good that has happened this week?"


The stressors of the pandemic weighed heavily on students as they juggled online classes while homeschooling their children and working various hospital shifts caring for patients with COVID who were critically ill; many of these patients succumbed to the coronavirus. The feeling of doom and gloom was like no other. The Bible informs us that there will be tough times. James 1:2-4 (NIV) states, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Jesus told us to expect hardships: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV). The pandemic brought with it times of uncertainty and stress, but we can be confident as believers that there is a purpose even in these traumatic experiences, and that through Christ, we can have peace amid the surrounding chaos.


The term joy is mentioned in the Bible 430 times (Richie, 2017). Although joy is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) as "a feeling of great happiness," God-given joy can be described as "that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ" (Lloyd-Jones, 2012, para 1). Jesus encourages us with the promise of joy if we keep close to him: "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have I loved you" (John 15:11-12, NIV). Faculty have strived to emulate Jesus in effectively conveying genuine care for students by offering words of support and encouragement. We also have been flexible on due dates and have shared resources, incorporating empathy and care in our faculty feedback to students' assignments.


Even in tough circumstances, we can choose joy, knowing that God is still in control. The psalmist David wrote, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Psalm 30:5, ESV). As faculty, we are experiencing joy in meeting students where they are, offering support at a time when they have felt as if no one else understood. May we encourage you, too, despite challenges, to embrace opportunities to encourage and support your students so that you may continue to seek and receive joy in your day-to-day teaching.


Lloyd-Jones M. (2012, June 1). Only one thing can give true joy. The Glorious Deeds of Christ.[Context Link]


Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Joy. In dictionary.


Richie N. (2017, May 3). 21 Bible verses about joy. Unlocking the Bible.[Context Link]