Academics, Campus wide, College of Christian Studies, College of Nursing

Chaplaincy and nursing: Where faith meets healthcare

By Hunter Gatling | June 8, 2023
Nursing students work in the simulation lab.

What CSU program strives to provide care and healing to patients while simultaneously instilling Christianity? 

  1. Nursing
  2. Chaplaincy 
  3. All the above

If you selected C, all the above, then you are correct. The chaplaincy and nursing programs at Charleston Southern University share a common goal: provide care to those in need with Christianity at the forefront. Upon graduation, students from either of these programs are prepared for nursing and ministry work or pursuit of graduate degrees. However, unlike some other programs, the chaplaincy and nursing programs provide a unique opportunity for the two professions to collaborate. 

The collaboration is known as an observation. The observations are when a nursing student shadows a chaplain as they administer spiritual care to the patients dealing with medical hardships. This might include prayer, talking with the patient, being a listening ear, and overall being there for those that are going through medical hardships. 

Sara Crump, a second year nursing student, gives her personal perspective from her experiences observing the chaplains. “One of the things with CSU is they encourage us to talk to patients about this, even if it is uncomfortable,” she said. Crump also points out that the chaplains are not only there for the patients, but also for the nurses. “I love to see how the chaplains encourage the nurses as well. Especially with the nursing shortages.” 

Dr. Ronald Harvell, director of the Dewey Center for Chaplaincy at CSU, said, “One of our nursing students encountered a full-time chaplain at one of the hospitals. She was very surprised and inspired by the chaplain. The experience was so positive,” he said. “We have had nurses in our chaplaincy classes, and they have completed chaplaincy observations from their experiences during visits, including Roper hospitals.”

Dr. Ron Harvell speaks in Chapel.

There are many parallels between the nursing and chaplaincy programs at CSU. One thing that chaplaincy observations teach the nursing students is to converse with their patients on a personal and spiritual level. This allows nurses to provide healing that goes beyond administering healthcare. Through the observation, these future healthcare providers learn to be a spiritual presence that uplifts patients who are in need. Being a nurse can oftentimes be a great challenge, and the human aspect could often be lost in the chaos of it all. An observation with a nurse and chaplain presents an opportunity to remind patients that they are doing God’s work through our nurses. 

Charleston Southern University offers bachelor’s degrees in both chaplaincy and nursing programs. Nursing students also have the opportunity to pursue an MSN after completion of their BSN. CSU offers a traditional 4-year program for BSN as well as an accelerated 16-month program. 

Roper St. Francis is the official healthcare provider for Charleston Southern University and provides convenient care to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students. Their facility is located on University Boulevard, less than one mile from residential students on CSU’s campus.  

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