At 52, Valley minister feels call to care
for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
|Brad Langdon sees nursing as an extension of the ministry
of caring for the whole person.
By Dan Heuchert
Brad Langdon was in his second job after college, having first been a newspaper
reporter, then a communications assistant with the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
He thought he might pursue a career in a medical field.
God inspired another idea, though, and Langdon landed at Union Theological
Seminary in Richmond. He graduated in 1983, and spent the next decade establishing
as a Presbyterian minister, getting married along the way.
In 1993, he and his wife, Vicki, settled into the Lexington area — he as
pastor of Collierstown Presbyterian Church, she as a nurse at Stonewall Jackson
Hospital, and both as owner-operators of a small cow-and-calf operation. They
were part of the community fabric.
still felt restless. After prayerful reflection, “I came to a point in my ministry where I was really ready
for something else larger to do,” he said. “Basically, I wanted to
have more hands-on experience in caring for the whole person — not only
spiritually, but physically.”
Langdon took a few courses at local community colleges. In 2002, he resigned
his pulpit, sold the cattle, moved out of the church-provided manse and
enrolled in the U.Va. School
At age 52, three decades after earning his bachelor’s degree in literature
from Penn State University-Middletown, John Bradford Langdon will receive a bachelor’s
of science in nursing May 16, then begin his newest career as a psychiatric nurse
at Western State Hospital in Staunton.
A quiet, thoughtful man — think Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton, grown
up — Langdon talks knowledgeably of leading-edge care and evidence-based
nursing. But much of nursing comes down to simply caring for patients, and those
who have worked with him universally laud his approachable, sincere manner.
think he’s a wise and gentle soul,” said Nursing School instructor
Graduate nursing student Meg Helsley, who worked closely with him
this year, agrees. “He’s very compassionate and dedicated, very intuitive to
the emotional and physical needs of the patient.”
Patients have not been the only beneficiaries of Langdon’s care. This year
he took a clinical leadership practicum, in which he helped guide seven third-year
undergraduate students through their first clinical training.
be overwhelming for students,” who receive their patient assignments
the night before, then prepare to care for their patients the next day, DeGennaro
said. Even medical students are typically four years older before they work with
The cancer ward, where Langdon’s group worked, is particularly stressful,
she said. “The rest of the University community really doesn’t have
to deal with this. They have this life and death situation, in addition to dealing
with tests and papers.”
The deaths of several patients, especially two who were
close to the students’ age,
were very troubling. Langdon was a valuable resource to the students in those
situations, she said.
One of the third-year students, Lindsey Loving, cared
for a 52-year-old woman for several weeks. One day, “I just walked into the room when she took
her last breath,” she said.
was a big shock. You didn’t really expect that going in,” she
said. “Brad was there with words of comfort and a shoulder to cry on. He
just pulled me to the side, and we sat there and we really talked.”
go is hard,” Langdon said. “But the gifts we give to the
patients are valuable, and the patients’ families value that. … What
she gave was really important, and she needed to trust that.”
That advice became the core of a memorable post-clinical
conference Langdon led on end-of-life issues. After
each day on the wards,
at the Nursing School to review their experiences
and take in some instruction. At his session, Langdon
he wrote to them about
the importance of the gifts they gave to patients.
them through some tough times and brought a lot of spiritual essence to those
students,” said Helsley, who is also the cancer clinical trials
coordinator for Martha Jefferson Hospital’s Cancer Care Center.
felt blessed when he did it,” added DeGennaro. Langdon later led
a focus group to discuss how to help students cope with end-of-life situations,
and will keep working with DeGennaro to develop a more systematic approach to
preparing and debriefing students.
Nursing isn’t as much a career change as an enhancement, Langdon said.
He remains a member of the clergy, and while in school performed two weddings
and preached roughly once a month as a substitute minister.
respects, I see nursing as an extension and an expansion of the ministry
of caring which is part of the ministry of Word and Sacrament,” he said.