The subject of integrating our denominational principles into every area of the nursing curriculum is of such vital importance that it should certainly receive primary consideration in planning the program of the nursing school. It involves much more than the simple procedure of inserting certain topics or viewpoints in the program of studies. Instead, this problem of integration reaches down into the hearts and lives of the entire staff and faculty of our nursing schools, for our aim in education is not just to produce professional nurses, but to do our humble part under the blessing of the Lord in building the characters of our youth so that they may stand the test of time and eternity.
Our philosophy of education is very beautifully presented in the book Education, by Mrs. E. G. White. The 'first 'Chapter states that this "has to do with . . . the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers." We need to consider also that first object of education which is "to restore in man the image of his Maker, to bring him back to the perfection in which he was created, to promote the development of body, mind, and soul, that the divine purpose in his creation might be realized."
We cannot hope to teach religious ideals and attitudes unless we ourselves are practical illustrations of what we would have our students to be. How can we expect our students to become living examples of our health message unless we ourselves under all circumstances endeavor to approach this ideal as nearly as possible? Furthermore, as much as we might wish to weave our religious and health teachings throughout our curriculum, we cannot achieve this purpose unless we ourselves continue to be diligent students of the message, constantly digging for precious nuggets of truth to enrich our own lives and the lives of our students. So often the immediate problems which confront us and the consequent pressure of work present many obstacles to the accomplishment of this ideal ; and yet, is not this very situation an illustration of "these things" which "ye ought to have done" and "not to leave the other undone"?
If our schools of nursing are to accomplish their purpose, surely the students they graduate should be real exponents of the health phase of our message, inspiring others to desire to learn and do likewise. If our nursing group give only halfhearted intellectual assent to our health principles, and engage in their practice with the same lack of enthusiasm, what can we expect of the less-informed people in our churches and of those outside our own membership whom we hope to influence to better living?
It is a foregone conclusion that in order to place the right emphasis on our teaching, we must study our subject matter carefully, taking ample time to make out rather complete course outlines which set forth the objectives which we hope to reach in each course. I am sure we all desire to give the right setting to our teaching, but unless we lay thoughtful plans in advance, we are likely to lose sight of some of the most valuable material which we ought not to neglect.
Some subject matter lends itself to the denominational emphasis better than other subject matter ; yet if this objective is kept in mind a surprising number of opportunities will present themselves. Our teaching of nutrition involves very little if any deviation from the commonly accepted viewpoint of the scientific world today. If our students are taught this subject with reference to the best scientific sources, together with constant use of readings from the Spirit of prophecy and other denominational literature, they will be well informed on the subject, and their confidence will be strengthened in the position which we hold.
The hygienic aspects of meat eating, for example, may be established by reference to the testimonies, and in addition, many sound non-Adventist sources may be quoted. Even the newspapers may be utilized from time to time for startling information regarding the incidence of trichinosis or other diseases directly traceable to patronage of the black market. It should be pointed out that abstinence from flesh foods does not necessarily constitute a healthful dietary, and that with their omission we must give thought to the need of iron, also to the substitution of satisfactory proteins to secure an adequate diet.
The various areas of the curriculum should not be given over merely to familiarizing the student with factual material, important as this may be in such courses as pharmacology or the basic sciences. Even in these fields there is opportunity for pointing out some of our principles. An introduction to the course in pharmacology might include a discussion of our attitude toward drugs ; pointing out that they do not provide the best method of treating disease, but that their use is similar to that of a crutch or a temporary aid. A child who does not thrive on mother's milk is often given cow's milk as the best substitute. In the same way we sometimes have to resort to drugs to assist nature in combating disease. It may be further explained that at the time the testimonies against drugs were written, people were commonly taking large doses of drugs, and physicians were using them more or less empirically, often prescribing such poison as strychnine.
Spiritual Lessons From Basic Sciences
The basic sciences, while largely factual, also provide opportunity for denominational emphasis. Reverence for the Creator may be inspired in the study of anatomy and physiology, as the student is led to see how "fearfully and wonderfully" we are made. In microbiology the function of minute organisms in helping to make man's environment a safe place for him to live, might illustrate God's solicitude for our wellbeing. No doubt those who are teaching the sciences will find many more spiritual lessons in their presentation.
A course such as health principles affords rich opportunity for integrating our own denominational viewpoint through the use of reference material from the Spirit of prophecy, once more showing how the counsel given harmonizes with the best scientific thought. History of nursing would not be complete without the history of our health message, stimulating a deeper appreciation for the vision of our pioneers, who, while subjected to severe ridicule, played such an important part under divine leadership in laying the foundation for a health message which can stand the test of scientific discovery today.
The courses in nursing and the allied arts present many avenues of approach for emphasis on the religious aspects of the nurse's work. Without doubt we are all teaching the preclinical students to pray with their patients, following evening care. I am sure we can all testify that this has made a profound impression on the minds of many of our patients. Prayer is also acceptable to most preoperative patients before they are taken from their rooms to surgery, as their minds are likely to be conditioned to religious influences.
Through nursing-care studies and at the bedside, the student may be led to teach health conservation and disease prevention, either by precept or more often by unconscious example. I well remember how two of our men patients set a wager on whether or not they could persuade our students to eat between meals. The students knew nothing about this, but all kinds of enticing sweets were offered to them on various occasions. Fortunately, the man who thought the students would yield lost his wager. Patients often watch our nursing group far more than we realize. It is a sad reflection on our profession of healthful living when some of our responsible workers feel that they must go to a restaurant in the city to satisfy their appetites with food which is not served in our institutions.
The spiritual aspect of our work may also be brought out at the time of death, when contact is made with sorrowing relatives. The question of the state of the dead may arise, and the hope of a future life may be pointed out. In connection with this lesson, the student may be guided in the method of approach to relatives under these conditions. Scriptural texts may be suggested which offer consolation in bereavement.
In obstetrical nursing the question of infant baptism sometimes leads to a discussion of our own beliefs.
Perhaps during this period of global war we could in some course point out the expected incidence of tropical diseases as wounded soldiers are brought home from these far-off lands, and in this connection some of the hazards encountered by our missionaries might be discussed.
Aside from our purely denominational courses, we should not overlook the excellent reference material to be found in such books as Ministry of Healing, Medical Ministry, and Counsels on Health. The chapter on 'Mind Cure" in Ministry of Healing is especially helpful in psychology.
In professional adjustments class the beginning student learns something of Christian relationships. A foundation is laid for developing right attitudes of confidence in leadership and organization, responsibility for being a true representative of our message, and a sensitiveness to the unexpressed soul hunger of many of our patients, together with some guidance in how to satisfy that hunger.
In this course, also, a sense of perspective may be gained in the mind of the senior student in seeing her place in relation to our worldwide task. She becomes better acquainted with the privilege which may be hers as a Christian professional nurse in service to the church and to the world. The question may be raised as to the wisdom of accepting certain positions which might call for compromise of principle on the part of the young Seventh-day Adventist. Social and religious problems may be considered here, relating to recreation, associations, support of the organized work, Sabbath observance while taking postgraduate clinical courses, or the nurse's relationship to the missionary wage scale.
We are told that nursing education should not be focused on the mastery of subjects of study or even on general nursing experience, but on a series of carefully selected typical situations, with provision for suitable opportunity for the student to be guided in making adjustment to her learning. By precept and example the head nurse and supervisor may do much in helping the student to integrate Seventh-day Adventist principles into every phase of her life and work. In its widest sense the curriculum should be interpreted to include the entire environment of the student. The emphasis on denominational principles is not to be confined to the classroom, or the ward, but should permeate every part of the student's life, to the end that she may attain the fullest spiritual growth of which she is capable. The working program, the home life, the social and recreational possibilities, the need for leisure and for privacy in personal devotions, should all be thoughtfully studied to make sure that no factor is overlooked which has a bearing on well-balanced spiritual development.
Under the blessing of God there is no limit to the success which will attend the efforts of a faculty, adequately prepared and wholeheartedly consecrated to the task of preparing Seventh-day Adventist nurses for service in this closing message. It is indeed a precious privilege to have a small part in this important Work.