As sophomores in Merrimack College’s nursing program embark on the first clinical rotation of their studies, they will do so with the blessings of the entire Merrimack community.
Nursing students will once again take part in a Blessing of the Hands ceremony this year, a common tradition among Catholic colleges and one that Merrimack adopted last year.
At the ceremony, slated for Wednesday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m. in the Sakowich Center’s Multipurpose room, Father Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A., will first bless the hands of nursing faculty, who will then carry that blessing over to their students.
“A lot of nursing is very much laying of the hands,” said Traci Alberti, associate dean of nursing. “It’s very symbolic because there’s such a high (level of) touch with nursing as we care for patients.”
During their second year of study, nursing students receive first-hand work experience at various healthcare organizations including acute, long-term, community, and school care settings.
“The in-depth clinical placements really happen from (The Blessing of the Hands) on – at the beginning of their sophomore year,” Alberti explained. “So we wanted to anoint their hands as they’re entering clinical practice where they’re going to be touching and caring for patients.”
Abigail Greeley ’24, who participated in Merrimack’s first-ever Blessing of the Hands last year, described a “beautiful” ceremony that resonated with her.
“I felt this ceremony was very important for all of us as we entered our clinical, interacting with patients and learning how to properly take care of them,” she explained. “I am currently attending Salem Hospital for my clinical placement. It is most definitely a big transition working in the hospital…mainly due to how fast-paced (it) can be.”
Madison Dellamonica ’25 will be among the students participating in this year’s ceremony. From there, she’ll start working at Bear Hill Rehabilitation Center in Stoneham, Mass.
“My career goal after graduation is to work in a pediatric outpatient office,” she said. “I’m very excited to see my patients and be able to practice what I have learned in class and lab on real patients.”
Over the past four years, nursing at Merrimack has grown to a full department with 289 students. Alberti said she hopes to develop a nursing graduate program sometime in the future.
The 2022-23 school year marks a pivotal time in the department’s short history. Its initial class of 38 students is expected to graduate this spring and the department is applying for accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
“I decided to pursue nursing here at Merrimack because of the willingness and devotion our faculty has to giving us the best education possible,” said Ryan Cossette ’24, who will work at Masconomet Healthcare Center in Topsfield, Mass. after the Blessing of the Hands ceremony. “Nursing is one of those professions where there is a lot to learn…In order to be successful you need educators who value teaching the next generation of nurses, which is what we have here at Merrimack.”