“Sacred Space”: Nursing Students Get End-Of-Life Training, Can ‘Share Jesus’ Before It's Too Late (+podcast)

Monday, March 15 2021 by Richard Hunt

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Dr. Beth Delaney from the Cedarville University School of Nursing, gives instructions to students participating in the simulator training
Cedarville University
With a computerized mannequin, Dr. Beth Delaney from the Cedarville University School of Nursing, gives instructions to students participating in simulator training

As a nurse and associate professor of nursing at Cedarville University, Dr. Beth Delaney, has witnessed thousands of people taking their last breath. “I’ve seen some very interesting things” that have convinced her, “I absolutely know that God is real.”

As Cedarville is a Christian school, Beth explains, “We teach our nurses the importance and understanding of spiritual resources as a patient approaches death. If a patient is interested in becoming a person of faith, we incorporate ways nurses are able to lead someone to Christ.”

Beth, a veteran frontline nurse, reminds students of the “power that they have to help make a really difficult situation…tolerable.” She pleads with students, “that we can love God and love others at the most difficult time” in what she explains is a “sacred space.” 

[complete podcast interview available]

Based on years of her own professional nursing experience, Beth shares, “I’ve seen people of faith have very loving, amazing transitions from this life to the next. I’ve seen people not have smooth transitions and have a lot of symptoms, a lot of fear, from this life to the next.” But sometimes there is not any apparent transitional event taking place other than the patient physically passing. 

I told Beth that within my own family, I had heard stories of relatives who, a few minutes before passing, were talking with their mom or their grandmother, who is already departed. Does that happen? Beth replies straightaway, “Oh yes. Yes it has. Or people will say names of people that younger generations don’t even know about – and the older generations are saying, ‘What did that person just say?’ … I’ve seen people who have not really been moving, smile, reach up. I’ve seen people scream. I’ve seen a lot of different things. Now, I don’t see what they see. But over a lot of time and a lot of bedsides, you definitely see a lot of different things, so what you describe, I’ve definitely seen.”

Concerning the educational experience offered at Cedarville, as part of their End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) undergraduate curriculum, the School of Nursing conducts simulation experiences for senior nursing students during their Leadership and Management class.  

In these simulation experiences, the school of nursing is transformed into Cedarville University Medical Center. Students role-play a clinical care situation with a computerized mannequin who is described to have cirrhosis of the liver. Throughout the clinical simulation and the journey from the emergency room to the death of the patient, half of the Cedarville students role play loved ones contemplating and then mourning the loss of the patient while the remainder of students serve in various medical staff roles. 

Cedarville’s simulation process also implements The Pause, where caregivers gather around the bedside to honor the life of the patient with a moment of silence after the family has left. This also helps with self-care for the health care team as they cope with loss of patients and honors the care that has been provided. 

Dr. Delaney is a board-certified Advanced Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse who has sought to integrate her palliative care training with teaching opportunities at Cedarville. Students learn this content as early as sophomore year. 

“Integrating faith into what we’re doing through the entire four hours of simulation and integrating the veteran ceremony and pause method make our nursing program unique,” said Delaney. 

Delaney was honored in 2019 as the ELNEC Person of Excellence. 

Dr. Beth Delaney from the Cedarville University School of Nursing and Dr. Michele Dodds instruct students during the group simulator program
[Photo Credit: Cedarville University] Dr. Beth Delaney from the Cedarville University School of Nursing and Dr. Michele Dodds instruct students during the group simulator program

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,550 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is one of the largest private universities in Ohio, recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, including the Bachelor of Science in nursing program, strong graduation, and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and high student engagement ranking. For more information about the University, visitwww.cedarville.edu.

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