Caring for the Whole Person in Health Care

Palmer Waymaker brings theology beyond the walls of the Church.

Bridgette RiceWhen we hear Palmer’s mission “The Whole Gospel for the Whole World through Whole Persons,” do we assume certain boundaries on that wholeness? Do we expect that a seminary education only equips those who are called to full-time professional ministry? 

Dr. Bridgette Rice, MDiv ’17 entered Palmer Theological Seminary in 2012, well into her career as a nursing educator with a PhD. “I wanted to deconstruct my faith in a healthy way, using a systematic theological approach, to fully understand why I believe what I believe about God.” She considered seminary to be the right place to learn in a way that would prepare her for seasons of adversity and enrolled in Palmer’s MDiv program. 

During her first week of class, she became keenly aware of how distinct the environment was from the secular academic settings in which she typically found herself. Professors started class with prayer and opened the floor for students to share what was on their minds and hearts. While her nursing background emphasized self-care and wellness, the MDiv program put God as the focus. 

Dr. Rice is now the Associate for Research and Innovation at Villanova University’s M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, and the Richard and Marianne Kreider Endowed Professor in Nursing for Vulnerable Populations. 

She notes that her theological education enriches her research, informs how she understands it in the context of larger systemic injustices, and helps her be mindful that participants are whole persons who have experienced trauma that informs their behavior. 

Dr. Rice describes how Palmer taught her to integrate her professional academic life and her religious life, two spheres that she once thought should be kept separate. “Palmer equips you to bring the fullness of who you are wherever you are, and respectfully.” The attention Dr. Rice gives to whole persons is nothing short of the outpouring of the soul work she underwent in seminary. She reflects that it is not uncommon that students and other faculty comment on how peaceful her office feels. She says that is no accident, it is answered prayer. She asked God to bring that experience of peace into that space, and he answered. 

Dr. Bridgette Rice, Palmer’s 2024 Alumna Waymaker in Service and Ministry, exemplifies that theological education can reach beyond the pulpit and Church walls. The Whole Gospel for the Whole World through Whole Persons is being lived out in nursing classrooms and in research right here in the greater Philadelphia area.