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Nursing student carries on tradition of faith-based nursing, plans for maternal and child care

Sandra stands in front of a while wall and smiles at the camera. She is wearing a black long sleeve shirt, and her long, blond curly hair is worn down around her shoulders.

Faith-based nursing – intentionally caring for the spirit as well as the body – has a long history in the United States, with Catholic sisters providing care in American hospitals as early as 1823. Idaho’s Saint Alphonsus Health System, now one of the largest providers in the state, was established by five Catholic sisters in 1894. Boise State nursing student Sandra Casey is set to graduate in fall 2021 and plans to  carry on the tradition of faith-based nursing when she begins her career in care.

Casey, a Boise native, graduated Bishop Kelley high school in 2017 and started at Boise State the following fall. She says she has “always had a passion for people” and knew from a young age that she wanted to work in medicine and help those around her.

Before she came to Boise State, she volunteered with the Catholic church in Tijuana, Mexico, to provide humanitarian relief to residents. Currently, she volunteers her time at a clinic in Boise that provides accessible pregnancy and childcare support up to two years after birth.

Additionally, she has joined the Medical Reserve Corp for the state of Idaho – a group comprising community members with and without medical training who supplement existing and emergency health resources when needed. Because Casey hasn’t completed her degree, she provides support work to other volunteering healthcare professionals.

Casey says she has developed mental and emotional resilience as part of her humanitarian work, which has helped her serve those in need.

“Being able to help people in the very darkest times of their lives is really special, and I do well in high-pressure situations,” she said. “If I can be there [for them], I want to be.”

Sandra stands underneath an arch in the courtyard of her church and smiles at the camera. Beside her is a wooden cross with a white sash draped across it.

Casey’s knowledge and faith as a member of the Catholic Church has directly influenced her patient interactions on a few occasions. She currently works as a certified nursing assistant at St. Luke’s, and described moments where she connected with patients through faith and prayer.

“I have an understanding of the necessity of peace in the life of a person. It’s important to me that I can give them a sense of hope and peace,” she said.

According to the Catholic Church, faith-based care is centered on whole-person wellness, with an emphasis on mind, body and spirit together. Casey plans to provide this kind of care in a career in maternal and child care nursing. Her goal after graduation is to work with new mothers and their children to establish healthy nutrition, lifestyle and behavioral health patterns early on to set them up for long, healthy futures.

– By Angela Fairbanks