The blessing of the hands, 2021

There is a long tradition in nursing called “the blessing of the hands.” Sometimes at a pinning ceremony, sometimes during National Nurses Week, a chaplain or nurse leader, with words and oil, asks God to bless the work of the hands of the people who provide nursing care.

Often, it happens in a chapel, and nurses come. Last year, in our hospital, gathering in large groups was put on hold. So our chaplains fanned out throughout our hospitals, visiting individual units.

This year, we did the same. Here’s what I said to the nurses and techs that I talked with.


It’s been a year since I was here on this unit. And maybe you were here then, too.

I blessed hands, not knowing how long the oil would need to last, not knowing how long your hands would be the only ones our patients would know while they were here.

For those days and months, you were the hands of Jesus and the hands of family members.

You, we, most of them, made it. At times, we, you, didn’t think you could. But you did.

It’s time to refresh the blessing.

In the old days, oil was about healing and about honoring. Oil, infused with spices, was medicinal. And oil was used to anoint the head of the priests and the king.

The touch of Jesus was about healing, yes. And it was about honoring, touching people who otherwise were ignored and unclean. That’s what nurses and patient care techs do.

Today, I’ll ask God to bless this oil and then you, and then one by one, I’ll put it on your palm or the back of your hand.



Thanks for helping us survive. Would you let us be aware of this oil as a reminder of your presence in us and our patients? Would you give courage and peace to my coworkers?

Thank you. Amen.


“May God bless your heart and your hands as you care for the sick.”


I wrote about this process once before.