Blessing of the Hands: Non-denominational ceremony is a cherished hospital tradition
By Kristy Bleizeffer May 21, 2014
Jon Banet says he got into nursing to help patients, and anything that helps him do that is worth trying. That’s why the University of Wyoming nursing student, working his first day at Wyoming Medical Center on Tuesday, found himself in the Sixth Floor nurses’ station with his head bowed and his hands outstretched. He’d gathered with half a dozen other Wyoming Medical Center staffers for his first ever Blessing of the Hands.
Gathering call, recited by Leigh Earle, WMC chaplain: Creator, Healer and Comforter, you have called us here to affirm the dedication of our lives to a ministry of healing and comforting.
Response, said in unison: Strengthen our hearts and wills to help others in your name.
The Blessing of the Hands is a hospital tradition practiced around the world, said the Rev. Keith Evans, WMC chaplain. It is something the clergy has done for eons, probably since the time of Florence Nightingale – a 19th Century nurse considered the founder of modern nursing. Wyoming Medical Center chaplains have led the interfaith, non-denominational ceremony for about eight years.
“Because human touch is such an important component of health care, the blessing is especially meaningful to physicians, nurses and other hospital staff. It provides a spiritual experience, symbolically linking the art and science of healthcare,” Evans said. “Those who participate reflect upon the interconnectedness of their own humanity and the privilege to provide holistic care to their patients.”
Evans, Earle and volunteer chaplain the Rev. Cynthia McBride started at the Sixth Floor nurses station and worked their way down floor to floor, department to department.
Prayer of Dedication, said in unison: We hear your call, Lord, and are thankful that you invite us to share in your healing ministry. Your call surprises us as we wonder what special gifts you see in us. Your call honors us as you bless us and send us forth to live your word, healing and counseling, comforting and holding your people through our gifts.
The ceremony is open to anyone, religious or not, no matter his or her job description. Every person at Wyoming Medical Center is responsible for the healing of every patient.
Surgical Unit clerk Becky Stevens participates every year: “It makes me feel good, and it opens my heart and my hands to my work.”
Physical Therapist Mike Fowler agreed: “Even if you aren’t religious, I just think that whatever you can do to help yourself feel better about helping people, you should do it. This gives me a sense of direction in my work – a little boost to keep me going through the day.”
Blessing of the Hands, recited by Earle: You are God’s hands in this healing place. May you be upheld and comforted by the assurance of God’s constant presence at your side and of God’s healing strength in your hands.
Chaplains lead the ceremony at Wyoming Medical Center twice a year. Tuesday’s ceremony was the first for McBride, who is the pastor at First Christian Church. Afterward, she and the others anointed each set of hands with oil.
“For those whose hands bring healing to patients here, God’s hands work through their hands,” McBride said.
Closing prayer, said in unison: With this blessing we pray that our hands and hearts are strengthened for the work that lies ahead. We pray that we are compassionate to human need, tender and strong in our care for one another, genuine in our friendships, faithful to the commitment to this special ministry and faithful to our God.