The title usually given to the sophomore class in religion in Seventh-day Adventist schools of nursing is Ministry of Healing. The sophomore year is the first year actually spent in clinical training in a hospital, the first year of college having been spent in any one of our Seventh-day Adventist colleges. The Ministry of Healing course is an effort to present to the students of nursing the true objectives of the nursing course as a whole. Each of the clinical and theoretical subjects has its own distinctive objective or list of objectives, but the main, over-all objectives, usually accepted as the only purpose for the operation of these schools of nursing, are presented in this important course.
There are probably a few schools of nursing that operate with merely the one objective, that of preparing well-qualified professional nurses. This objective is worthy insofar as it goes. All good schools of nursing should have a similar objective. But Seventh-day Adventist collegiate schools of nursing have a much broader goal. Not only are graduates of these schools fully qualified professional nurses on the collegiate level, but they are also educated to assist their patients with spiritual problems as well as with their mental, emotional, and physical needs. It is in the Ministry of Healing course that the foundation for this training is laid.
The course has taken its name from the book The Ministry of Healing, which traditionally has been the main textbook. This book is also usually found in every room of Seventh-day Adventist hospitals and sanitariums because of the great spiritual help it gives to patients who turn to its inspired pages for comfort and courage. The nurse frequently can direct a patient's reading to choice passages that can give just the help needed under certain situations. The nurse must know the book from personal experience in order to be of help in this way. The nurse must also know and live out the principles presented in this book if she is to attain to the high objectives of a Seventh-day Adventist Christian nurse.
Student nurses come to the school with widely varying backgrounds as to their religious training and experience. Some have an unusually mature outlook on life and their future as a nurse; others, unfortunately, do not have such an advantage. Some come with extremely idealistic attitudes, that may become sadly blunted with reality; others come with a rather materialistic outlook; some just come to school to receive what is offered. It is this extreme variety among the minds of the students that presents such a challenge to the instructor. Real skill and training plus an extremely earnest and conscientious effort must be used to give this course what it demands.
Book knowledge alone will never suffice to realize the objectives of this course. It is conceivable that a student could receive the highest grade in the course and yet never be moved by the principles and objectives presented. The attitudes and behavior could possibly be exactly the same after having taken the course as before. True, this might seem an extreme situation, yet it is possible.
As we consider the most appropriate methods of teaching, it would seem that the dynamics involved in properly guided group discussions could very profitably be used in this course. Only in a free discussion of the group could immature attitudes be seen, and there is no better method of changing attitudes than to have a group of peers denounce them. Obviously group procedures could not, and should not, be used continuously. There is much material that is factual and basic to a proper understanding. This must either be read, or received through the lecture method. From past experience, however, it has been found that many of the typical, and at times difficult, situations that a nurse may find herself in can be previewed in a role-playing procedure. Such methods can be very helpful. At other times a panel discussion of problems can be most illuminating. If the nurse can know beforehand what might be best to say when certain questions are asked by patients, she will not be so embarrassed, and the answer will be far more appropriate and satisfying.
Because of the extremely varied background of nursing students, there must be flexibility in the presentation of this course. A stereotyped method could absolutely destroy its true purpose and objective. The individual needs of the students must be met. It is true that the goals are quite visible, and it is hoped that all will attain to them; but it surely must be just as obvious that different methods will have to be used for the students who have never studied religion than for those who may have come to the school with already well-developed and mature spiritual attitudes. Also because of the varying backgrounds, certain attitudes that may positively hinder the progress of the student may be present, and these must be handled with extreme care. Such attitudes must be observed quickly, and dealt with understandingly, with patience and skill, guiding the student into her greatest potentiality.
A course of study that is built with the individual differences of the students in mind, the lofty objectives clearly delineated, and a variety of methods in the presentation, can very materially assist in making the Ministry of Healing course the most practical of all in the nursing curriculum.