Emory Report
October 17, 2005
Volume 58, Number 7


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October 17 , 2005
Nursing, theology announce joint certificate program

By Amy Comeau and Pete Paulsen

With the nation experiencing both a severe nursing shortage and a heightened sensitivity to issues of faith and religion, the Candler School of Theology and the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing have joined forces to create an interdisciplinary program exploring the issues of faith and health. The program, in the pilot phase this fall, will be fully implemented in fall 2006 and available to master’s students in nursing, theology and public health.

Darla Ura, clinical associate professor of nursing, got the idea for the program a few years ago after completing coursework in parish and faith-based nursing at St. Louis University. After developing the initial concept, she approached Karen Scheib, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Candler, about establishing a joint certificate program. The program is open to persons of all faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and others.

The new program seeks to provide students with an understanding of health and faith by introducing them to the principles and practices of nursing, religion, theology and public health and by teaching them how to integrate resources of faith traditions and health sciences. Students also will be advocates for social justice in religious communities and society at large, centering around issues of health and health care, and will help create sustainable community partnerships between faith-based communities and the health profession.

“Nurses’ roles have traditionally been with healing of the body,” Ura said. “However, in the past several years, emphasis has been placed on the whole person, realizing that an individual’s spiritual and religious beliefs impact health and healing. The program in faith and health provides nurses the opportunity to expand their knowledge of faith practices and the impact that religion and spirituality has in the healing process of each patient.

“In this program,” Ura continued, “both nursing and theology students will have the opportunity to study and care for individuals and communities, thereby [helping them understand] the role each serves in a multidisciplinary context.”

“The Faith and Health Program provides an exciting opportunity for a truly interdisciplinary approach to the study of the intersections of religion and health,” Scheib said. “All religious traditions have healing practices. In the Western Christian tradition, there are close links between the understanding of salvation and health. In the West, nursing had its origin in the monastery.

“In contemporary U.S. culture, we are faced with a split between religion and health,” Scheib said. “Since religion is such an important fact of life in the United States, it is vital that both religious professionals and health professionals understand the way in which the faith of a person from any religious tradition can hinder or help healing.”

Students will be required to complete 13 academic credit hours, including three required courses on the topic of faith and health, and elective courses, two of which must be taken outside of their own school. They also will complete a practice component in a congregational setting that will allow them to address issues of faith and health and actively engage in those issues with the congregants.

For additional information about the program, contact the Candler Office of Admissions at 404-727-6326 or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at 404-727-7980.