Sacred Vessels: "Blessing of Hands" Ritual Helps MSK Nurses Move Forward


Nurses perform minor miracles every day, but they also must cope with personal loss while staying resilient for patients. Each year during Nurses Week, the Department of Nursing holds a ceremony in remembrance of nursing staff — past and present — who have passed away during the previous year.

The event features readings, musical interludes, and brief remarks from colleagues of the departed. The ceremony concludes with a powerful ritual that helps the nurses move forward and continue ministering to the sick: the blessing of hands.

“There’s something about this ritual, and the celebration of the hands as sacred vessels for delivering care, that rejuvenates nurses so they can take care of others,” says Kevin Browne, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer. He organized the event with MSK Chaplaincy Services and the Threshold Choir.

Outpatient nurse leader Diane Paolilli says the ceremony is a form of self-kindness that nourishes the nursing staff’s capacity for caring and compassion. “We spend so much of ourselves and our time caring for others — this moment allows us to honor our colleagues and care for ourselves,” she says.

Click through the slide show above to learn more about this year’s ceremony, held on May 8.


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What a beautiful tradition! Thanks to the MSK chaplains and the Threshold choir for making this event so meaningful. Each and every day, MSK nurses insert themselves into the patients cancer story. This restorative ritual has become a highlight of nurses week... a chance for the nurse to care for self... to take pause, to reflect and to renew.