Nursing Professor Earns Inaugural Clark Faith and Learning Syllabus Award

Provost Dr. Randy Richards presents nursing professor Kathy McKinnon with the inaugural Clark Faith and Learning Syllabus Award, which comes with a plaque and $500 stipend, last week.Nursing professor Kathy McKinnon earned the inaugural Clark Faith and Learning Syllabus Award for her exemplary work teaching nursing students to integrate their faith in their own stress management routines and patient care.

Four faculty members selected McKinnon for the award, which she earned for her Contemporary Stress Management Strategies course. Provost Dr. Randy Richards presented McKinnon with a plaque and $500 stipend in front of her peers last week.

Former President David W. Clark and his wife Lois established the award to encourage and reward faculty members such as McKinnon, an assistant professor of nursing.

“She’s a good example of someone whose life, professionally as well as personally, speaks of her faith,” Clark said. “We read her testimony, and we were delighted to hear that she had won.”

The award is open to faculty members from various disciplines, and the guidelines give them freedom to integrate faith however they choose, Clark said. With an increased emphasis on learning outcomes across higher education, faith touches the subject matter at the outset: when a professor is developing the syllabus, he said.

Students in McKinnon’s stress management course design and implement their own plans to strengthen their faith and decrease their stress, which in turn, improves their patient care. Plans may include praying, reading and meditating on the Bible or joining a small group Bible study, among other techniques. Students refine their plans and hold each other accountable throughout the semester.

The stress management course was one of the first McKinnon taught when she joined PBA as an adjunct professor in 2015, having just undergone breast cancer treatment, she said.

Stress and anxiety levels among Americans are at an all-time high. Nursing students, who put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform, are no exception, McKinnon said.

“My goal for all of this is that by the time they graduate, they’re equipped to handle stress as Christian nurses, personally and professionally,” McKinnon said. “If they can’t handle their own stress, how are they going to help patients?”

Pediatric psychiatric nurse Tiffany Washington ’19 said her patients have told her that they see a difference in the way she cares for them. She credits her professors and PBA for teaching her to provide Christ-centered care.

“A lot of what I learned in stress management, I use now as a nurse,” said Washington, who is also a student in the doctor of nursing practice program.

McKinnon previously worked as a nurse for 25 years — many of them in pediatrics and adult trauma — without integrating her faith, she said. It left her burned out, and she quit nursing, she said. After she gave her life to Christ, she began praying with patients at St. Mary’s Medical Center. She went back to school and became a chaplain.

“That was when I realized the importance of the spiritual component,” McKinnon said. “That’s what was missing all those years.”

She said she was humbled to receive the award, because all of the faculty love the students and pray for them. She views the honor as confirmation that she’s living out her calling.

“It was like God was saying ‘Thank you,’” she said.

Photo: Provost Dr. Randy Richards presents nursing professor Kathy McKinnon with the inaugural Clark Faith and Learning Syllabus Award, which comes with a plaque and $500 stipend, last week.