Notre Dame College Assistant Professor Gregory P. Knapik has answered a call not just to be nurse and nurse educator but also to service, to continue study and to spirituality in all.
Knapik has worked as a mental health nurse for more than 30 years, mostly in local free clinics and state facilities for the criminally insane. He still volunteers at health stations for low income, uninsured and underinsured patients.
On behalf of the College, he recently donated time to teach middle school students at the Great Lakes Science Center Great Science Academy. He has served a nursing mission in El Salvador and is preparing for his third Notre Dame immersion, in as many years, to Guatemala.
“I have felt a sense of calling, to help people, to care … motivated by faith, a sense of being part of humanity,” he said.
While Knapik has a two earned doctorates in nursing, the clinically focused Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) and a PhD focused in nursing scholarship. He teaches in his areas of specialty; mental health nursing, community nursing, international nursing with attention to the spiritual dimensions of health and healing in nursing practice. He also has a master’s degree from the Ashland Theological Seminary.
For the faculty member, spirituality is integral to the life of the mind. “We think about things. It is part of our life, part of our makeup,” he said. “Even those who consider themselves atheists are searching for purpose, why we are here … why we are born, to live and to die. It’s particularly important, a big part of health and wellness.”
When his class and advising schedules allow, Knapik attends daily Mass on campus. He helped found a weekly rosary group at the College. Students often ask him to start class, and then begin clinical experiences, with prayer.
“I can’t remember or think of a nurse who doesn’t rely on their own personal spirituality and faith,” he said.
Knapik has studied the faith journeys of sexual assault victims and how spirituality aids in their recoveries. He has witnessed spirituality among mental health patients, whom he said, even if seemingly incoherent, still would show up at chapel.
He has been among the first waves of men in nursing. He worked through what he refers to as the “warehousing” of mentally ill prisoners, nursing at a facility of more than 600 inmates.
Knapik also has experienced the conversion of small, religiously affiliated health centers into global health business systems. But spirituality, he said, remains evident, as in a current movement among the profession for understanding cultural diversity.
“We are not just treating a disorder or a disease. We are treating a person, particularly in nursing,” he said.