Blessing of the Hands ceremony prepare students for clinicals

Flannery Moore, Culture Editor

A truly unique aspect of Saint Anselm College’s renowned nursing program is its roots in Benedictine tradition. Nursing students receive not only the best of medical training but a holistic educational and spiritual experience. The Blessing of the Hands ceremony, which took place February 11, is a crucial milestone in the class of 2024 nursing majors’ four years on the Hilltop. 

The ceremony takes place in the Abbey Church and this year was open only to nursing students, but invited friends and family to join via livestream. According to Dr. Maureen O’Reilly, the executive director of the nursing department, this tradition began around 2012 and is “a rite of passage for students as they begin their first clinical experience.” 

Nursing students begin clinicals second semester of sophomore year, and, as stated by Dr. O’Reilly, “Although students have been part of the Department of Nursing since freshman year this is the first time that they will use the knowledge and skills they learned in class, lab, and simulations on actual patients.” 

Sophomore nursing major Arianna Raso said that the ceremony is special to her because she knows that “not a lot of other schools do stuff like that, and it’s cool to be a part of something that all of my classmates and I get to go through together before going out into the field and actually caring for patients.” She adds that the care and thought the nursing department, alongside Campus Ministry, invests in this tradition “really shows that they care about their students.”  

Student Sarah Davis added that the most important part of the ceremony for her is the opportunity to be part of such a tradition with her classmates. She said that while she is “not necessarily religious, it’s special to be part of a long standing tradition.” She added that while disappointed the ceremony was not open to the public, especially given the amount of experiences that the class of 2024 has missed out on due to COVID, she was happy to be a part of it.

Dr. O’Reilly said that “Many years ago this would have happened during a capping ceremony but since caps are no longer part of a nurse’s uniform we recognize this event by blessing the students’ hands, which is a more meaningful expression of the work of the nurse…As I say to students during the ceremony “This ceremony highlights an important passage as you begin to use your hands to express the care and compassion that is the work of the nurse.” 

Another sophomore nursing student stated that the ceremony makes “me feel closer with everyone. Because the nursing program has so many people in it, I feel like we forget that we’re all in this together. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the fact that other people might know more than me about nursing skills, but we’re all student nurses at the end of the day and traditions like this remind me that we all can come together.”  

This sense of community only further reflects the Benedictine values present in Saint Anselm’s nursing program. As Dr. O’Reilly says, “Nursing is very fulfilling but comes with great responsibility and many challenges, as we have seen clearly depicted during the pandemic.” The class of 2024 is now ready to rise to the challenges and tackle the second half of their education.