Nursing as a Christian calling
Should we expect a pastor to be more devoted to Jesus than a truck driver, teacher, plumber, or nurse who is also a Christian?
"If all of life is sacred, like the Bible says, then every vocation is sacred service for God—there is no secondary service," says Glenn Loewen, dean of education at Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta.
"Our hope and desire," he says, "is that within a Christian post-secondary [institution], Christian students will be formed to live their faith through their service so as to provide a genuine alternative to their culture.
Prairie is putting that idea into practice through its Practical Nurse (PN) Diploma program. Students graduate from the two-year program with an Associate in Arts in Religious Studies from Prairie College of Applied Arts and Technology as well as a Practical Nurse Diploma from Bow Valley College.
Prairie's nursing program trains students for first-class Christian service, says Loewen, as students learn to serve others and, ultimately, God.
"We must prepare students with the same seriousness for nursing as for pastoring. There is no training first- and second-class service—only first-class."
In addition to nursing courses, students take additional courses in Bible, spiritual formation and theology, including a course in which they wrestle with theological issues that directly relate to their job.
That combination is attractive to students who want the best from both worlds.
"I really wanted to go to a Bible college, but didn't want to spend an extra year and money on Bible school and then go to nursing school," says Melissa Basey, a recent graduate from Prairie's PN program.
"The program at Prairie differs from others because it is taught from a Christian perspective and is mission focused. They don't just teach you to be a [licensed practical nurse] so that you can come out with a job but so that you can come out with a ministry."
Pastors and missionaries are important, but God uses people in all sorts of vocations in different ways, says Basey.
"In nursing, you get to interact with every type of person," she says. "In the hospital there are no criteria for getting admitted, you must only be sick and need care.
"This gives the Christian nurse an opportunity to care for people in the name of Jesus that you may not encounter in other areas of life. It's an amazing evangelistic opportunity. I've had lots of opportunities to pray with my patients or share my faith with them when they ask."
An international practicum is a relatively new development in Prairie's PN program. Students go to another country for four weeks, where they receive a cross-cultural experience, learn about community health issues and treat people in poverty.
Becky Berdahl, PN instructor and International Practicum Coordinator at Prairie, says trips make an impact on both students and those they visit.
"So many people [that the practicum has impacted] say, 'The fact that you can take your time to come over here and do things for us… Who are we?
"And yet you come over here and take your time and show us how to take care of our babies and take care of ourselves. We now understand God's love better.'"
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