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Blessing of the Hands Begins Nurses’ Week at WRNMMC


By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Command Communications​

A Nurse’s Hands Prayer

Blessed be these hands that have touched life.

Blessed be these hands that have felt pain.

Blessed be these hands that have embraced with compassion.

Blessed be these hands that have anointed the sick and offered blessings.

Blessed be these hands that grow stiff with age.

Blessed be these hands that have comforted the dying and held the dead.

Blessed be these hands, we hold the future in these hands.

Blessed be these hands for they are the work of your hands, O Holy One. Amen.


With this and similar prayers, Department of Pastoral Care chaplains at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center anointed the hands of nurses and other care providers, beginning Nurses’ Week May 7 at WRNMMC.

The blessing of the hands tradition “recognizes the compassion and dedication to others that nurses demonstrate every day,” explained Army 2nd Lt. Shaina Newton, a nurse at Walter Reed Bethesda.

Army Chaplain (Capt.) Gavin Gaskin added that nurses “provide consistent comfort, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” He stated nurses have “one of the toughest jobs, requiring patience, intelligence, listening, conflict management, calm, quick thinking and endurance, all in a fast-paced, often stressful environment. They give of themselves to others. They are beacons of hope who light our way.”

Navy Capt. Valerie Morrison, director of nursing services at WRNMMC, saluted her nursing team, who recently achieved Pathway to Excellence (P2E) designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. P2E designation recognizes health-care organizations that promote and sustain a safe, positive and healthy working environment for nurses, which leads to better outcomes for patients.

Morrison furthered that this year’s theme for National Nurse’s Week, “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence” aptly describes what nurses do on a daily basis. “I think these are great words,” she said.

Army Col. Melissa Hoffman, deputy chief of the Army Nurse Corps, served as guest speaker at the celebration, stating that “Nurses inspire patients and families while being the focal points for prevention, care and recovery.”

In addition, Hoffman said nurses assess the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional status of patients, as well as their family dynamics and interactions, and then develop plans to assist and support beneficiaries and families, inspiring their recovery.

“Health care is a dynamic discipline in which innovation moves our profession forward,” Hoffman continued. “Thoughtful innovation by nurses have improved patient safety, quality of care and outcomes, while also creating efficiencies in care,” she said.

Focusing on readiness and supporting the expeditionary force, Hoffman stated that nurses must be able to care for patients in austere environments for an extended amount of time. She added that in a multi-domain battle, nurse superiority is needed to care for and evacuate patients safely from the battlefield.

In addition, Hoffman said nurses are needed to perform “critical research” in health care. She stated nurses are at the forefront of virtual health capabilities. “Nurses influence health-care practices and processes for the better. Health care would not be a success without the roles nurses play. We must continue to see ourselves as leaders in health care. We must be partners with our patients and their families [for better outcomes]. Nurses contribute in every aspect of saving lives.”

Following Hoffman’s remarks, WRNMMC nurses from all corps recited their prayers. Air Force 1st Lt. Ayesha Thompson prayed, “Watch over and protect…the airmen of our country as they fly upon their appointed tasks. Give them courage as they face the foe, and skill in the performance of their duty.” 

Army 1st Lt. Olivia Lovenstein prayed, “As I ask for courage each day, grant that I may be worthy of the sacred pledge of my profession and the lives of those entrusted to my care. Help me to offer hope and cheer in the hearts of men and my country, for their faith inspires me to give the world and nursing my best.”

Navy Ensign Sydney Escoe prayed, “I ask for strength with which to serve a nation’s mighty task. I need the grace with which to wear in dignity and pride, my uniform, and with it take its meaning in my stride.”

Representing the Civilian Nurse Corps, contract providers and volunteers, Tiffany James, a nurse at WRNMMC, gave the Nurse’s Hands Prayer.

Those in attendance then lit candles, asking for guidance to be the light for all they serve – patients, families and their colleagues. Retired Army Lt. Col. Cindy Goldberg, a nurse and director of the Clinical Nurse Transition Program at WRNMMC, led those in attendance in reciting the Florence Nightingale Pledge, which calls for nurses to “practice [their] profession faithfully,” [and] “do all in [their] power to maintain and elevate the standard of [their] profession.”

Goldberg explained that Nightingale was known as “the lady with the lamp” because she visited the wards and cared for patients, most wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War. Nightingale visited the patients carrying a small lantern in her hand. “Her lamp was a symbol of hope, strength and healing to all her patients,” Goldberg added. Many credit Nightingale as being the founder of modern nursing, establishing a nursing school, pioneering the use of infographics in health care, and helping hospitals of the time transform into safer and cleaner facilities.

National Nurses’ Week begins each year on May 6 and ends May 12, Nightingale's birthday. While the first Nursess Week was celebrated in 1954 – the 100th anniversary of Nightingale’s mission to the Crimea – it wasn’t until President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation in 1982 that May 6 would henceforth be National Nurses’ Day. In 1990, the American Nurses Association (ANA) expanded the day-long observance into a week-long celebration of nurses.​