This story appears in the Spring 2017 edition of Instaurare. Subscribe today!
One of the greatest kindnesses known to man is the gift of healing. Every day, in the world’s hospitals, this kindness is revealed time and again, as ordinary people help others to become well again. For many Christendom alumni, the gift of healing has become their calling as they work in the medical field. Alumni have utilized their broad liberal arts education to gain entrance to medical and nursing schools across the country, such as Neill Mollard ’97, who is a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist, and former classmates physical therapist Joe Soos ’93 and dentist Sam Aronhime ’93. But nursing seems to be a more popular field for many Christendom alumni. They are able to graduate with their liberal arts degree and enter accelerated nursing programs to earn their bachelor’s of science in nursing degrees in just 12 or 15 months.
For alumni in the medical field living in Northern Virginia, working at Fairfax Hospital is certainly a matter of proximity. That fact does little to lessen the fascination that many alumni all work in this same hospital. By all being there, together, they are able to have a huge impact on the mentality of the patients, staff, and more.
Philosophy major Joelle Jansen ’03 currently works as a nurse in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Fairfax Hospital. She has been working at Fairfax since 2007. In today’s medical landscape, there are numerous ethical questions that have to be navigated, making working in the field a particularly diﬃcult task for Catholics. Her education in the Faith and in morals at Christendom is helping Jansen to navigate these pitfalls and truly help lives every day at the hospital, bringing Catholic moral principles to a place that is, sadly, often devoid of them in the modern era.
“Having faith and morals is extremely important in this setting since I work with a critically ill patient population, many of whom will pass away no matter what we do,” says Jansen. “Regardless of the faith of the patient or their family, it is always important to advocate for the patient, and having an understanding of their basic human dignity is part of that. Many of our families are unprepared for this event, and my Faith has often allowed me to speak to them about what can happen with their family member. I believe that my education in philosophy helped me for this position, because it allows me to look at the picture of my patient’s health as a whole and helps me try to understand different patients’ beliefs about how they view their health and what they are or aren’t willing to do as it pertains to that.”
Joseph Norton ’10 recently completed the highly ranked accelerated nursing program at George Mason University and now works with Jansen as a nurse on the same floor in the Medical Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Norton credits his philosophy degree for his ability to excel beyond his peers in nursing school and to successfully juggle working a full-time job, being a father of two, and going to nursing school.
“My decision to pursue nursing as a work vocation arose after I worked in public policy for three years,” says Norton. “I had gotten married and had two children when it struck my wife and me that I needed a more stable and promising career. The demand for nurses is growing dramatically. However, I did bring my education and upbringing to bear on the decision. As I was looking into new fields, I found a new love for the natural sciences, especially biology. I believe that the instruction I received from Christendom College in the higher sciences of theology and philosophy cast a new light on the physical world for me. Healthcare is a wonderful field for a Catholic with my education.”
Nurse Anne-Marie (Jensen) King ’03 believes that her vocation to nursing is also a vital calling, and one that can truly help change the culture. Working in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at Fairfax, she sees that many are sad, depressed, anxious, and living life without meaning. In such an environment, she is able to bring something they sorely need: hope in the face of Jesus Christ.
“It’s amazing how many corporal and spiritual works of mercy a day at the hospital enables. The saying, ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ is often appropriate in the ICU too. It’s a privilege to be able to call a priest for a patient and be at the their bedside when they’re being anointed and knowing that you had a part in that,” says King.
A few floors below her, Pat Vander Woude ’05 works in the Neuro Surgical Intensive Care Unit. A former helicopter pilot for the United States Marines, Vander Woude transitioned from the USMC into nursing only a few years ago, and is currently now working on becoming a nurse practitioner. The transition itself has been a smooth one, driven completely by Vander Woude’s belief that he is doing a great service to those in need.
“My wife, Jill, went to nursing school after graduating from Christendom. She gave me the initial impression of what nursing was and also that there were many programs available for people who already had a college degree. I gradually became more interested in medicine during the later years of my nine and a half total years on active duty, ultimately formulating a plan to become a nurse practitioner. Having served on active duty as an USMC oﬃcer, I had access to the GI bill so I was able to obtain a bachelor’s in nursing,” says Vander Woude.
“Becoming a nurse practitioner is important to me because it is a way for me to try to influence our society in a healthcare system that is becoming increasingly diﬃcult for Christians. I believe that I can help other families grow in health, while respecting their God-given rights as patients.”
[Editor’s Note: Since the publishing of this article, Vander Woude has entered George Washington University’s nurse practitioner program full time.]
In a world filled with so much doubt and confusion, our society needs individuals willing to care for others and be Christ figures to them. Hospitals crucially need these people who can help others on one of the most personal levels known to man. These alumni are taking this obligation upon themselves, healing the sick and helping people pass from this life and into the next in some cases.
Healing others is a privilege for all who undertake such a mission. The Christendom educational experience, both inside and outside the classroom, helps students discover this privilege, and have great success in fulfilling it.