May 14, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 9
Back Issues
‘Our Students Lead Us’
Sullivan Award-winners
Part of the fabric of University life
Curiosity drives Mitman’s pursuits
‘Reverend Nurse:’
At 52, Valley minister feels call to care for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Leap of a lifetime:
Athlete Kim Turko jumps a formidable hurdle — life-threatening illness
He’ll be back:
Adult education graduate studies adult education
‘Hungry to Help:’
Student refugee wants to improve the lives of Burma’s forgotten children
Revitalizing Main Street:
Jill Nolt’s plan for her hometown high school makes front-page news
Peace Corps bound:
Business major trades fast lane for slow pace on Tonga
First in her family:
Angela Caldwell, a Native American, overcomes community attitudes to become lawyer
From Crane’s love of the cosmos comes new era for stargazers
A history of Finals
Sharlotte Bolyard is flying high
A ministry of medicine

Bombay bound:
Darden grad to apply best U.S. business practices to family company in India

Peer educator looks beyond educating:
Health advocacy is next step for Alyssa Lederer

No ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions:
Family expert Charmaine Yoest says creativity, flexibility are keys to resolving work/family issues

Reflections on the road to enlightenment:
Thirteen years, one class at a time, but who was counting?

‘Connecting communities:’
Presentation on African-American history at U.Va. gets students thinking, talking
’Reverend nurse’
At 52, Valley minister feels call to care for the whole person, spiritually and physically
Brad Langdon
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 a career 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.

But Langdon 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 of Nursing.

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.

“I just think he’s a wise and gentle soul,” said Nursing School instructor Gina DeGennaro.

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.

“It can 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 patients.

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.

“[Death] 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.”

“Letting 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, the third-year students gather at the Nursing School to review their experiences and take in some instruction. At his session, Langdon read the students a letter he wrote to them about the importance of the gifts they gave to patients.

“He helped 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.

“We all 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.

“In some 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.


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