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Restoring hope in a pandemic A registered nurse in behavioral health, Julie Craig ’02 (M.Div.) draws on her faith and theological education to understand patients in crisis By Laurie McLaughlin
s a registered nurse in behavioral health, Julie Craig ’02 (M.Div.) sees how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting patients in her Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, hospital. “They come to us because they have serious behavioral or mental-health situations,” she says. “We are the mental-health emergency room. And we are seeing an increase in the acuity of depression and anxiety as more and more people reach out for services to help themselves cope with their new realities during the pandemic.” Before the pandemic, Craig says patients may have had other support systems in place: other health practitioners, supportive family and friends, or a church that congregated weekly. Now it is harder and less safe to make these routine, in-person connections: “That church’s pastor may now be overloaded and overworked, and can’t be with every person who is in crisis.” Craig cares for patients of all ages—including children as young as 7 years old—and her theological education from San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), now part of the U of R’s Graduate School of Theology, shapes the way she approaches her patients: “My background in spirituality informs how I approach folks who are in the midst of crisis, and I probably do more referrals to the spiritual care department than any of my colleagues,” she says. “It’s important to have someone who can walk beside our patients spiritually; I think it brings better health outcomes.” Craig’s career has been full of accomplishment and selffulfillment. She has had a long interest in health care and worked for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin for 10 years before she moved to California to attend SFTS.
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“ We are seeing an increase in the acuity of depression and anxiety as more and more people reach out for services to help themselves cope with their new realities during the pandemic,” says Julie Craig ’02 (M.Div.).
Ministry took her back to Wisconsin, to a small Presbyterian church, where she served for more than five years as lead pastor. She found it rewarding and intense work. When the time came to move on, she traveled to destinations across the globe on what she calls an off-and-on, “self-funded sabbatical” for a few years and thought seriously about where her professional journey would take her next. In 2013, Craig celebrated her 50th birthday. “That’s the year I started nursing school,” she says. “The call to nursing was as strong as the call to ministry was years ago.” As humanity negotiates new lifestyles and changes in routine brought by the pandemic, Craig is concerned that people may lose their trust in others, their ability to rely on each other, and faith in themselves to get through each day’s challenges. “I look at people as children of God and know that we are more than just the crisis and problems that we present to the world,” she says. “We can give people the services they need, and we can restore their hope.” OT