By Jeff L. Peery
For nearly 30 years, the focus for the College of Nursing at Brigham Young University has been to assist students in learning the Healer’s art so they will first, emulate the principles, knowledge, attributes, and methods of the Master Healer, and, second, foster environments and processes to help others to be made whole. No matter what career paths they follow, BYU nurses share a common dedication to improving the health and the quality of life of individuals, families, and communities.
Just as scholars may analyze a poem by each line of the stanza, let’s consider the parts of the previous statement as a way to connect the Healer’s art and the Savior.
Emulate the Principles
President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “We will find it very difficult to be significant leaders unless we recognize the reality of the perfect leader, Jesus Christ, and let him be the light by which we see the way!”
Fourth-semester nursing student Allison Lee shares how the Spirit recently taught her to seek inspiration in her work. “I try to reflect the college value inspiration by being receptive to the Spirit when I am with patients. There have been many times where the Spirit has spoken to me in the healthcare setting. On my first day of clinical last semester, a fellow nursing student and I had a patient who requested a carton of milk for breakfast. It seemed harmless and an easy task, and we were about to leave to get it. All of a sudden, I was stopped and reminded to check his diet. He needed thickened liquids and could have aspirated if we had given him that simple and seemingly harmless carton of milk. If the Spirit had not reminded me, I could have harmed this patient. It’s so important always to be receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, especially as a nurse, because the little things can have serious consequences.”
Emulating his example is the best way to follow the Savior. Another modern-day prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, reminded us of this principle. “The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives.”
How can we seek the Spirit in all that we do? The answer is not complicated, and most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can quickly recite a half-dozen “Sunday School” answers. But these principles are true. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us in how to care for others through praying, reading the scriptures, and fasting. The Holy Ghost will abide with us as we honor, respect, and obey God’s laws.
Knowledge of a Savior
Janice Kapp Perry, in her 2009 children’s song “I’m Learning the Ways of Jesus,” captures how we can apply the Savior’s example in our lives:
I’m learning each day to be caring and kind. I think of good deeds in my heart and my mind. I try ev’ry day to give love away. I’m learning the ways of Jesus. So if I see someone who’s lost or afraid, I’ll offer to help. That’s a choice I have made. Or if I see someone who just needs a friend, I’ll speak to them kindly and spend time with them. I try ev’ry day to give love away. I’m learning the ways of Jesus.
Missionaries for the Church soon realize that one of the most precious gifts they can give others is their testimony and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Sister Carole M. Stephens, a past counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, reminded us that through the Savior’s Atonement, individuals do not have to experience the sorrow caused by sin, the pain caused by others’ actions, or the painful realities of mortality—at least not alone. “First, the Savior, the Master Healer, has the power to change our hearts and give us permanent relief from the sorrow caused by our own sin. . . . Second, [He] can comfort and strengthen us when we experience pain because of the unrighteous actions of others. . . . Third, [He] can comfort and sustain us as we experience ‘painful realities of mortality,’ such as disaster, mental illness, disease, chronic pain, and death.”
While this publication limits content on the subject, the scriptures and past general conference talks can direct your study of concepts associated with knowing the Savior in relation to healing. Such topics can include the power of faith, the power to heal and be healed, finding peace, maintaining hope, the power of the priesthood, the role of the Atonement, miracles, charity, and forgiveness .
Develop Christlike Attributes
The scriptures also teach the attributes of Christlike leadership. Doctrine and Covenants 4:6 identifies some of the characteristics of the Savior’s divine character: “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”
Keep in mind that learning to be like the Savior takes time and is a lifelong pursuit. The missionary handbook Preach My Gospel says,
Some chapters in Preach My Gospel focus on what you need to do as a missionary [or nurse]—how to study, how to teach, how to manage time wisely. Just as vital as what you do, however, is who you are. . . .
The restored gospel enables you to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior has shown the way. He has set the perfect example, and He commands us to become as He is (see 3 Nephi 27:27). Learn of Him and seek to incorporate His attributes into your life. Through the power of His Atonement, you can achieve this goal and lead others to achieve it also.
One way to acquire these traits is to identify a Christlike attribute from the scriptures and develop it. Study the definition and make plans to apply the characteristic in your life. Then pray and ask God to enhance the attribute in you. You should evaluate your progress often and, when ready, consider another point to pursue.
Methods of the Master Healer
The Savior said, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
What were the works of Jesus Christ? He loved and served the people, healed the sick, cast out devils, and even raised the dead. How can we do something similar?
Perhaps the best thing to consider is that Jesus was a listening leader (Mark 5:35–36). For us, listening patiently, sincerely, and lovingly is a valuable support to those who are trying to heal.
He taught us how important it is to use our time wisely (D&C 60:13). To do this properly, we must tune in to the needs of those who are suffering. Sometimes a short visit is in order because our patient or loved one is very tired. Sometimes they are lonely, and a longer visit will meet their needs. It is also important to tune in to their personalities. Some individuals want privacy and quiet, while others want lots of interaction and support. We should first determine their needs and then reach out accordingly.
Jesus loved His followers; He was able to level with them, to be candid and forthright with them (Luke 22:31–32). To serve as He did, we must be willing to see past our views and experiences. You work with various providers, nurses, hospital staff, and other patient and family advisors who bring their ideas to a problem. Different perspectives can lead to better conversations and outcomes.
Jesus also operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along (John 12:49–50).
Shanna Shaffer from NurseChoice.com says, “Just as we say that discharge planning starts on admission, patient education should start on admission as well. Every interaction affords you with the opportunity to teach your patients.”
The last thing a patient needs is inaccurate information. How they feel about the care received may be more important than the care quality.
On her final show, Oprah Winfrey said, “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. . . . I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?’”
Patients want to be seen, heard, and understood. To truly act as the Master Healer, we must establish an environment for this to happen and for healing to occur.
Speaking during the 2018 BYU Easter Conference, Sister Susan W. Tanner, past Young Women General President, gave the following insight: “As we take the name of Christ the Healer upon us, we try to teach others to rely upon Him in faith as we have had to do in our own healing miracles. And we also strive to give His love, understanding, and compassion to those we are helping.”
Tanner also shared that it is a covenant obligation and duty to minister and heal after the pattern Christ has set. Opportunities to serve, minister, love, heal, and “learn the Healer’s art” are all around. “To grow, to be strengthened, to be healed, requires all the faith we can muster in Jesus Christ,” she said. “To take the name of Healer upon us requires that we acquire His love and charity for others.”
The Savior demonstrated being made whole as shown in the Carl Bloch painting Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda. The artist paints Jesus lifting a canopy, revealing a man sitting on the ground in the shadows, perhaps tired of suffering his infirmity for nearly 40 years. The Savior asks: “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man replies, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” Then Jesus provides an unexpected answer: “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (John 5:3–9). Instantly, the man was healed.
Second-year graduate student Michelle A. Yeates says, “I feel so strongly about our body being a gift from God. Our bodies are beautiful, complex, and incredible, and it is amazing how perfectly each system works together to make a whole. This is why I love being a nurse and am going back to school to be a nurse practitioner. I get to help teach and educate and empower people to create a better environment to heal and be healthy and promote this gift that God has given us. As Jesus Christ is our Master Healer, I feel like the opportunity to be a nurse helps me be more like Him and draw closer to Him. I’ve often thought about how working on Sundays can be difficult. I wish I could be at church. But then I realize that if I cannot be at church, the next best place I could be is taking care of His children. And that is what I am doing. I can help be His hands here on earth. It is such a great privilege and blessing that I wouldn’t give up for anything.”
Associate teaching professor Dr. Blaine A. Winters can relate to creating appropriate settings for patients. “Growing up, my sister suffered from severe asthma. A nurse in our neighborhood came to our home several times in the middle of the night to care for my sister so my parents wouldn’t need to take her to the hospital. She fostered an environment within our home where she cared for our family.”
Paul Anderson, in his blog Book of Mormon Study Notes, stated this:
As Alma teaches the people of Gideon about the Atonement (Alma 7:11–13), he emphasizes three positive outcomes from the Savior’s suffering:
- He loosed the bands of death. By willingly laying down His life and taking it up again, He made it a certainty that we will all live again in the flesh after we die.
- He has taken upon Himself our sins, which makes it possible for Him to “blot out [our] transgressions” and make us clean and holy.
- He knows how to succor us in our infirmities, because He has been there.
Isn’t that last point comforting? He can relate to us. The Creator of the Universe not only knows rationally but can relate emotionally to what you and I endure because of what He was willing to suffer.
Assistant professor Dr. Marie M. Prothero (MS ’96) shares this thought: “Being a nurse has always meant connecting with my patients and their families. I try to think about the Savior and His love for each of us as I care for others. In my career, I have taken care of individuals who have not always felt the Savior’s love in their lives. They have had horrible things happen to them, and they are angry and feel alone. I have tried to show concern and hope as I care for their needs. I often think, ‘How would the Savior treat this person?’ I believe it is through the Atonement that we can all feel our Savior’s love for us. Keeping the thought of the Savior in my mind allows me to look past the outer exterior of a person and see them as the Savior sees them. It allows me to show empathy and concern.”
Fourth-semester nursing student McKenna Brown shares why she decided to become a nurse: “As I prepared to serve a mission, I fell in love with my [CNA] work as I saw patients in all stages of life and all stages of the healing process. I loved being able to care for people in these differing stages and felt like my work was, in a way, sacred. As I became a missionary, I saw deeper into this and understood that sentiment more. I realized that as I was a missionary, I could help people heal spiritually. From the trials and tribulations of life, they could be freed and find relief through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As a nurse, I knew that I would have even more knowledge and ability to help in the healing process of people physically. I knew that these two healings were connected. I knew that I would be able to enact change and healing in people’s lives in both physical and spiritual ways.”
Before his passing in August 2013, James L. (Jim) Killen Jr. had retired from the United Methodist Church after a 45-year career in pastoral ministry. Jim reminds us that God calls us to love Him with our hearts, minds, and souls.
Know that God wants you to be a whole person. If you can get physical health, do it. But if you can’t, remember that God can make you a whole person in spite of a physical illness. An amputee has to discover that he or she can be a whole person without the limb that has been lost. A divorcee must discover that he or she can be a whole person without the former partner. An unemployed person must discover that he or she can be a whole person even though unemployed. God wants you to be a whole person, and God is working to help you become one.
More than 150 years ago, Florence Nightingale supported holistic nursing education by teaching nurses to care for the whole person and their environment. This includes focusing on mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and social or emotional health; we could list references to dozens of journal articles on each of these areas. There are also volumes of books helping one use expertise and intuition to heal patients and promote overall well-being. I encourage you to seek out training and resources to better support those you serve if there is an area in which you lack understanding.
Help Others to Be Made Whole
Assistant teaching professor Brandon Thatcher (BS ’09) reminds us that we help others become whole the most when we lead them to Jesus Christ by sincerely striving (albeit imperfectly) to do what He does the way He does it:
One simple yet powerful moment in my nursing experience happened in 2014 soon after I started working as a nurse practitioner. I worked in the equivalent of a psychiatric emergency room in Salt Lake City. We often saw persons who were withdrawing from drugs, homeless, and traumatized. While assessing a homeless man resting in a recliner, I felt rushed to finish the assessment since he was not in crisis, and I had much to do elsewhere. I went through the motions by getting the required information for my assessment with my mind on other tasks. Just then, the Spirit brought many scenes from the Savior’s life to my mind. Always did He make each person feel they were supremely important. Never did He go through the motions in a conversation without real intent. He was 100 percent present and focused on individuals, and they knew it. I noticed that I was standing and talking down to the man in the recliner. I heard a quiet voice in my mind say, “Get down and look him in the eye.” I dropped down to one knee and looked him in the eye. I asked for more in-depth questions and then really listened to his answers. All other tasks faded from my mind as I focused completely on being present with this man. I felt a wave of love for him wash over me. The miracle: in striving to make another whole, I became more whole as well. Needed healing happened in both of us.
Fourth-semester nursing student Adia Hansen says her favorite thing about the Healer’s art is “the holistic way every patient is viewed. Nurses do not only look at a patient’s physical health, but also their psychological, social, and spiritual health. Treatment plans include improving all these varying aspects of a patient’s health (e.g. receiving proper nutrition, engaging in exercise, taking time to heal, obtaining proper sleep, etc.). Ultimately, the Master Healer saves us from both physical death and spiritual death, restoring us completely.”
By using the Savior’s life as a model, nurses can be inspired in their work and can develop attributes that will help them to heal the whole person.
 Spencer W. Kimball, “Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, August 1979, 7.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, April 1988, 2.
 Janice Kapp Perry, “I’m Learning the Ways of Jesus,” Friend, November 2011, 22.
 Carole M. Stephens, “The Master Healer,” Liahona, Nov. 2016, 10.
 Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 121.
 Shanna Shaffer, quoted in Moira K. McGhee, “Patient Education in Nursing: How to Best Educate Your Patients,” https://www.nursechoice.com/traveler-resources/patient-education-in-nursing-how-to-best-educate-your-patients.
 Oprah Winfrey, “The Oprah Winfrey Show Finale,” Oprah.com, http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/the-oprah-winfrey-show-finale_1/7.
 Susan W. Tanner, quoted in Marianne Holman Prescott, “‘A Difficult Healing Journey’: Understanding the Savior’s Role as Master Healer,” LDS Church News, March 29, 2018, https://www.thechurchnews.com/lds-church-news/2018-03-29/a-difficult-healing-journey-understanding-the-savior-s-role-as-master-healer-12802.
 Paul Anderson, “That He May Know . . . How to Succor His People—Alma 7:11–13,” Book of Mormon Study Notes, June 8, 2015, https://bookofmormonstudynotes.blog/2015/06/08/that-he-may-know-how-to-succor-his-people-alma-711-13.
 Jim Killen, “God Wants to Make You a Whole Person,” Preaching.com, https://www.preaching.com/sermons/god-wants-to-make-you-a-whole-person.