With the nation experiencing both a severe nursing shortage and a heightened sensitivity to issues of faith and religion, Emory University's schools of nursing and theology 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 be available to master's level students in nursing, theology and public health.
Darla Ura, MA, RN, APRN, BC, clinical associate professor at Emory's Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, got the idea for the program a few years ago after completing coursework in parish and faith-based nursing at the University of St. Louis. After developing the initial concept, she approached Karen Scheib, PhD, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Emory's Candler School of Theology, 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 empowered to advocate for social justice in religious communities and society around issues of health and health care and will help create sustainable community partnerships between faith-based communities and the health profession.
"Nurse's roles have traditionally been with healing of the body. However, in the past several years, emphasis has been placed on the holistic person, realizing that an individual's spiritual and religious beliefs impact health and healing," says Ura. "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 both nursing and theology students will have the opportunity to study and care for individuals and communities; therefore, understanding 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," adds Scheib. "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. Since religion is such an important fact of life in the U.S., 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 students to address issues of faith and health and actively engage in those issues with the congregants.
For additional information about the program contact the Office of Admissions for the Candler School of Theology (404-727-6326) or the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing (404-727-7980).