From birth until end of life, nurses come alongside us, providing compassionate care, kindness, and comfort. They dedicate their lives to serving others, working long hours ministering to those in need.
Dr. Sharon Kopis, Professor and Chair of Doctoral Studies at Liberty University School of Nursing, believes nursing isn’t just a job — it’s a calling and ministry.
“Anyone can get a job, but nursing is a blend of art and science that lends itself to caring for the human spirit,” she said. “I always tell my students: When you’re at the bedside, or wherever you are with that patient or family in a crisis, you’re God-appointed to be there at that point and time. While you’re doing your clinical duties to the best of your ability, you need to be thoughtful that there’s a human spirit there God has placed in front of you. It’s very important to think of it as an opportunity to minister to them spiritually, as well.”
As a family nurse practitioner with an extensive background in nursing administration and critical care, Kopis is no stranger to integrating her faith with healthcare — a practice she implements into Liberty’s nursing program. Viewing patients as created in the image of God, she explained, allows caregivers to go beyond the basic requirements of the job description in extending Christ-like, compassionate service to those in their care.
“Whether we’re in a big medical center or rural public health clinic, we need to make sure to minister,” she said. “That spiritual aspect needs to be at the heart of all your caring. It really makes a difference. We are caring for a living soul that was created in God’s image and we must give reverence, respect, kindness, and caring to that person.”
“We all have things in our lives that have shaped and strengthened us, and we bring a little bit of that to the bedside,” she continued. “We must treat all with the love, eyes, and heart of Christ. It’s critically important that we treat all individuals as Christ would and lovingly and kindly do our duties to the best that we can wherever we serve.”
But spiritual care doesn’t just apply to patients; Kopis emphasized that for students who choose emotionally-demanding career paths like nursing, tending to one’s own spiritual health is of the utmost importance.
“A spiritual care class is included in our nursing curriculum, because self-care is an elemental aspect of being a provider,” she said. “If we do not care for ourselves we will not be effective in caring for others, we will burn out. When our students come in, we emphasize the importance of keeping their prayer walk going with Christ, keeping that devotional time, taking care of themselves and renewing their soul everyday by being in the Word and reading and studying and getting into churches and groups that can support them.”
In addition to presenting Christian ethical standards, Liberty’s nursing program combines cutting-edge technology with hands-on care to ensure students are equipped to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced medical environment.
“Our nursing students are very well prepared,” Kopis said. “They are highly sought after by medical centers because they have such a strong reputation for being clinically prepared, having a hard work ethic, and being really amenable to working with others. They have a good foundation.”
Yet, due to the aging nursing workforce and limited capacity in nursing schools across the country, nursing is facing a critical shortage nationwide. National statistics show that the demand for nurses is quickly outpacing the supply — and psychiatric mental health providers today are few and far between.
To combat this, Liberty University has expanded nursing school admission to twice a year and offers multi-level nursing programs to make learning as accessible as possible. The school also offers a summer camp to help educate high school students about the medical field and has recently started a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program.
“We have many children with psychiatric needs today. We have wounded returning veterans and the elderly. Across the whole lifespan we have people who have needs and we just don’t have enough providers,” Kopis said. “We need more.”
Sometimes, the high cost of education is a deterrent to would-be students. To address this issue, Liberty offers scholarships, grants, and other initiatives that support education, providing students with an affordable way to achieve their goals. The Towns/Kopis Emergency Response 25% Tuition Discount, for example, was created to honor those who selflessly serve others, specifically police, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders.
“Police, fire, rescue, EMS — they are the ones who are out 24/7 serving regardless of the holiday, the day, the night — it doesn’t matter,” Kopis said. “While some of these folks are in good paid positions, others are not. They’re doing it for the good and benefit of their community. They oftentimes need other opportunities in education to advance in their careers, and Liberty offers a variety of degrees that support these types of career pathways to grow and have the opportunity for advancement.”
At every educational level, Liberty University students are taught to view nursing as a ministry of caring, allowing them to practice from a uniquely Christian worldview and integrate their faith into their work. This, Kopis said, allows them to be the hands and feet of Jesus in whatever capacity they serve.
“We know we have programs that are academically excellent; that was very important to me when I was looking at there to teach,” Kopis said. “But more so, I wanted a Christian underpinning, that fabric that will help students grow spiritually while they are at Liberty with us, helping them to grow closer to Christ — to be more like Him and to do what it is He wants them to do.”
She added, “If we can help them with that, then we've done our job.”