Mary-Beth Desmond, PhD, RN, AHN-BC

Assistant Professor
MSN Graduate Program Director
Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Sciences
WCSI Caritas Coach®
WCSI Postdoctoral Caring Science Scholar
 Postdoc Scholar Presentation
  Caritas Colleague

Dr. Mary-Beth Desmond is an Assistant Professor and MSN Graduate Program Director at Lewis University College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Romeoville, Illinois. She teaches Nursing Theory and Population Health in the MSN program. One of the populations near and dear to her heart is the Veteran community as she is from a military family and mother of a Marine Veteran. She is a Research Health Scientist at the Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Healthcare (CINCCH) at Hines VA. She is currently participating in a project for spinal cord injury patients bringing her expertise in holistic healthcare, simulation design, and psychometric research. Mary-Beth has been a nurse for over 35 years. Twenty five of those years were spent caring for patients in a variety of settings at Amita Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. While on the Magnet journey, Dr. Desmond was instrumental in presenting Watson’s caring theory which was selected to guide nursing practice at the hospital. Dr. Desmond completed her PhD in Nursing Science from Loyola University Chicago in 2017. She received her Master of Arts in Spirituality (MA) in 2010 from Loyola University Institute of Pastoral Studies, and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in education from Lewis University in 2011. Dr. Desmond is a Watson Caring Science Post-Doctoral Scholar, Watson Caritas Coach, board-certified Advanced Holistic Nurse, Faith Community Nurse, and Spiritual Director.

Her journey into caring science began while a MA/MSN student. Knowing the value of tending to the spiritual needs of patients, yet having less time to be with patients given the changing climate, resulted in her own risk for spiritual distress which called her to pursue a MA in Spirituality. By the grace of God she took a Parish Nurse course, now called Faith Community Nursing, where spirituality is valued as a key aspect of health and healing. For her MA spirituality practicum she was connected to spiritual care expert, Dr. Lisa Burkhart, at Loyola’s Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Dr. Burkhart and Dr. Hogan developed the “Spiritual Care in Nursing Practice” (SCiNP) theory (2008), which opened Desmond’s world to the research that supports the importance of spiritual care for both patients and nurses. These experiences combined with studying nursing theory during her MSN program and learning Watson’s “Caring Science as a Sacred Science” and the “Caring Moment” was a defining moment. She came full circle having her sense of spiritual well-being restored, enlightened by the “Caring Moment” to treasure whatever amount of time she was blessed to share as a nurse with patients and families as she walked on sacred ground. I am forever grateful to Dr. Jean Watson for her dedication to Unitary Caring Science for self and others.

Dr. Desmond’s research, teaching, and publications are aimed at incorporating caring science and spirituality to promote holistic health and spiritual well-being for patients, nurses, and in faith communities. Her first publication Desmond et al. (2014), Incorporating Caring Theory into Personal and Professional Nursing Practice to Improve Perception of Care, was part of her Caritas Coach program project and MSN practicum. This scholarship included aligning a Scripture passage to each of the ten Caritas processes which was innovative and supported the Adventist hospital faith tradition. In 2013, Dr. Desmond was part of the Adventist Midwest Health team who hosted the 19th International Caritas Consortium.

Dr. Desmond’s dissertation research, which was part of a larger study funded by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Office of Nursing Services was published. These include “Development and Psychometric Evaluation of a Spiritual Care Simulation and Companion Performance Checklist for a Veteran Using a Standardized Patient” (Desmond et al., 2018) and Spiritual Care in Nursing Practice in Veteran Health Care (Burkhart et al., 2019). Desmond’s dissertation research was guided by Watson’s philosophy of the nurse’s “Caritas Consciousness” and caring presence and Burkhart and Hogan’s SCiNP theory.

Dr. Desmond completed her Watson Caring Science Post-Doctoral Scholar fellowship in July 2020. Her postdoctoral work, Caring Science as Sacred Science: A Catholic Scholarship of Divinity, Communion, Sacred Activism, & Caring Moment, was divinely inspired and evolved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Desmond has several living exemplars to the Divine integrating “Caritas Veritas” in research, teaching, new programs, and human service in community. In academia the spiritual care simulation with a standardized patient and spiritual care educational program was piloted with undergraduate nursing students to evaluate content, flow, and timing using Watson Caritas Self-Rating Score and Watson Caritas Patient Score. Dr. Desmond’s nursing ministry is also called to “Communitas” where she teaches Watson’s caring theory aligned to Scripture with Catholic faith communities. This has included the Stations of the Cross for health care professionals, Advent Tea, Wisdom Women retreat using the St. John’s Illuminated Bible, Widows and Widowers day of reflection, rosary devotion to the Blessed Mother, and co-creation of a Mary Garden.

Dr. Desmond plans to continue her scholarly work incorporating caring theory and spirituality to promote spiritual well-being. She believes nursing is her vocation and as a proud Catholic feels a special calling from the Blessed Mother, as a role model of caring, to foster the spiritual practice of meditation and prayer on the mysteries of the rosary. Desmond is deepening her creative self, co-creating Mary Gardens as sacred healing space in nature for silence, reflection, and meditation. She has written reflections in the prayer book Everyday with Mary. She is a board member at King Bruewaert House retirement center and peer reviewer of several nursing and religion journals. She was recently invited to be a contributor to the religiosity and spiritual distress Ackely and Ladwig Nursing Diagnosis Textbook (13th edition). To promote holistic health she loves to spend time at her lake house in Michigan with her husband, three adult children, family, friends, and dog. Like the Blessed Mother and Florence Nightingale, she is open to the mysteries and prays, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word” Luke 1:38.