April 30, 2004

Staff, faculty invited to annual blessing of hands ceremony

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Jason Morrow, M.D., is the author of a study indicating that marathon runners might experience less muscle damage if they take antioxidant vitamins. Photo by Dana Johnson

Staff, faculty invited to annual blessing of hands ceremony

Blessing of Hands, held every year during Nurses Week, is an affirming ceremony that focuses on the work of every Medical Center employee. The simple ritual is a way of thanking employees.

Raye Nell Dyer, chaplain with the department of Pastoral Care, said the tradition began five years ago and has grown every year.

“It’s an opportunity for all employees — no matter where you work or what you do – to come and receive acknowledgement of their part of what makes Vanderbilt successful,” said Dyer.

“We have people from environmental services, cafeteria, post office, and administration. We see nurses, doctors, support services, just anyone associated with the hospital comes for Blessing of Hands.

“Our hands are symbolic of our lives and who we are,” Dyer said. “They are symbolic of our lives’ work. For many, this blessing is like a cleansing, a renewing. To be appreciated and loved and have it spoken to you is a powerful thing.”

Dyer said the emotional gathering gives employees a sense of empowerment.

Edie Vaughn, a member of the nursing staff for 30 years, can’t say enough good things about the tradition.

“I know this is not a religious ceremony, but it really tugs at the heart strings,” Vaughn said. “I am always moved during Blessing of Hands. It’s a wonderful time to reflect and to celebrate the many jobs that our hands do.”

Terrell Smith, administrative director of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, said the service is something she looks forward to every year.

“It’s just so emotional,” Smith said. “It’s an acknowledgement recognizing your commitment to our mission. All of our employees are contributing to the care of patients in some way. This service reframes your work — you see yourself as a caregiver. Your hands are a such a symbol of caring and reaching out to people.”

The 30-minute secular service will be held in three locations Brittingham Learning Center and the chapels of both Vanderbilt University Hospital and the Children’s Hospital. The service typically includes a reading from a children’s book, inspirational music and a litany of affirmation read by those attending.

All those who have experienced Blessing of Hands encourage newcomers to attend. It’s how Pam Cornwell got started.

“When I first heard about it, I didn’t know what it really was all about,” Cornwell said. “I just went to check it out and now I’ve become involved in the program.

“You get such a feeling of well-being. It’s so relaxing and peaceful. It gives me chill bumps.

“The one thing I’d like to express to people is that it’s not just for employees who have hands-on contact. It’s for anyone who can benefit the patient and that’s every employee at Vanderbilt.”