1. Scheller, Suzanne
  2. Dunlap, Jayne Jennings
  3. Baudler, Barbara

Article Content

What is the significance of hands in nursing and related health science disciplines? As Christian faculty members at our university's Health Science Center, we were inspired to relaunch the blessing of the hands post pandemic. This time, we sought to make the ceremony interprofessional. Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) students were invited to join, and we are collaborating to include the Doctor of Occupational Therapy students next semester.


In preparing for this ceremony, we researched (1) the intersection between the art and science of healthcare, (2) the symbolism of hands, and (3) how healthcare professionals use their hands. The ceremony was publicized to graduating PT and nursing students as completely voluntary with a religious/spiritual overtone disclaimer. Dimming the room lighting and placing healthcare memorabilia on a covered table at the front of the room created a sacred, welcoming atmosphere. What a pleasant surprise to see a very large number of students and faculty present!


After a PowerPoint presentation with hand photos inclusive of PT and nursing-focused activities and the reading of a poem, the following Blessing of the Hands Prayer, written by the authors, was shared:


"Dear God, we offer a blessing of these hands and pray they will bring help to those entrusted to their care. May the God who formed these hands guide them toward healing touch as they are used as instruments of care and comfort. Please protect these hands from doing harm. We give you the glory for the important tasks and good work these hands have been trained to do and the countless patients and families they will impact in the future. Please guide the minds and hearts attached to these hands in wisdom. May you use the hands of these caregivers for good throughout the duration of their careers."


This general blessing not only acknowledged God as the source of goodness, it also created a setting of intentionality and awareness of the sacredness of healthcare work, allowing the ceremony to unfold perfectly (Atkinson, 2020).


At the start of the actual blessing of the students' hands, we demonstrated the ritual on each other so students would know what to expect. We then asked students and faculty who wished to have their hands blessed to come forward to the three faculty leaders. Significant movement took place as students and faculty alike stepped forward. The faculty leaders personally touched the students' hands (often adding their name) and recited, "I bless these hands. May they bring comfort and healing to all they touch." The atmosphere was poignant and respectful. Several students teared up as their hands were blessed or while watching others' hands being blessed. Many took photos or videos of their fellow student colleagues to capture this spiritually profound moment.


Although the ceremony was brief (30 minutes), it was information-filled, engaging, and spiritually meaningful. Student comments included it was "a beautiful ceremony" and "a good reminder of our profession and why we are here." Several stated their appreciation to be experiencing this with another healthcare discipline. The educators who participated felt the ceremony was "a beautiful way to help students understand the importance of the work they will do." Faculty also verbalized it was "an excellent culminating experience." All in all, the activity was positively received by those in attendance.


What is the value of Christian hand blessing ceremonies? We acknowledge that it is not easy to understand the full scope of this question and know we cannot truly measure such a significance. Christian nursing faculty must remember that it is God's kindness, not sermons, ceremonies, or conditions, that encourage people to turn to him (Biro et al., 2019). As faculty members, we will continue to pursue divine opportunities to focus on students' spiritual needs with those who express interest and want to participate. Our hope is by sharing this profound yet simple interprofessional activity, others may decide to introduce similar faith-based initiatives on college and university campuses.


Atkinson C. F. (2020). Blessing: A practice of presence, intentionality, and appreciation. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 38(1), 158-162.[Context Link]


Biro A., Rowley C., Snyder B. (2019). Being a Christian nurse. In K. L. Mauk & M. E. Hobus (Eds.), Nursing as ministry (pp. 75-90). Jones & Bartlett Learning. [Context Link]