Faith leaders offer nurses Blessing of the Hands at Huntsman Cancer Hospital

SALT LAKE CITY — The Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital ended a week of celebrating nurses with a Blessing of the Hands ceremony Friday.

Leaders from various faiths gathered at Huntsman Cancer Hospital to speak with nurses and offer them a blessing.

Sue Childress, Director of Nursing at Huntsman Cancer Hospital, said Nurse’s Week is celebrated each year from May 6 to May 12, and they traditionally end the week with the Blessing of the Hands.

Childress said while earlier in the week they have fun events and give away treats, movie tickets and other gifts, Friday’s ceremony is special.

“At the end of the day we want to do something more meaningful,” she said. “We want to recognize the stress and the compassion fatigue that they sometimes suffer due to taking care of difficult patients.”

Childress said the hospital employs more than 500 nurses, who are there for patients 24/7. She said in the course of their duties they often hear sad stories and cope with difficult situations, and Friday’s event helps them relieve stress and recharge.

“Blessing of the Hands is when they take a few minutes, and a spiritual leader— and we have many here today—will take their hands and talk about how hard these hands work and how difficult the work is that they do and how important that it is they do this work,” she said.

The blessings include Christian prayers, Native American smudging and Buddhist meditations.

“They use the symbol of water to wash away a year’s worth of stress and the effects of taking care of cancer patients, and they spend time with spiritual leaders,” Childress said.

Huntsman Cancer Foundation CEO and Chairman of the Board Peter Huntsman also attended Friday’s event and received a blessing from each faith leader present.