During the ceremony, members of the nursing staff stand before an MSK chaplain to have their hands cleansed with water and then blessed as vessels for providing care.
Chaplains Yusuf Hasan (left) and Jill Bowden performed the blessing ritual for MSK nursing staff members. The event helps nurses refresh and renew to continue healing others.
The blessing of hands and remembrance service enables nursing staff to pay tribute to recently deceased colleagues. This year, 13 former staffers were memorialized.
Kevin Browne, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, says the ceremony is a highlight of Nurses Week. "It can be very emotional and cathartic, a way of letting go of the past so they can continue to do good work."
Nurse leader Jacquelyn Burns spoke in memory of clinical nurse Susan Robbins and her ardent devotion to the band the Moody Blues. "Just having the opportunity to reflect on what joy they brought to the lives of their colleagues and their patients feels as if we are honoring them in some small way."
"The blessing of hands helps us reflect on why we do what we do every day," says Elizabeth McCormick, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer. "It is very emotional and spiritual, reaffirming our commitment to our life's work."
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.