Journal of Christian Nursing:
Department: Think About It
Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN, serves as editor of JCN and with Nurses Christian Fellowship USA, and works per diem as a staff nurse. She lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her family and is active in a local church.
The author declares no conflict of interest.
I worked an evening shift last weekend at the hospital that ended up being rather challenging. Staffing was tight and the patients were pretty sick. We received several new admissions and things became more complex. Like all nursing units, new admissions in behavioral health can be complicated. If someone is psychotic, they will need lots of observation and support to keep them safe and try to help them understand what is happening. If patients are aware of their situation, they can be quite distraught. All patients wander about the unit as we encourage them to be out of their rooms.
I was responsible for five patients as well as being one of the RN's on the unit. One of my patients was on close observation. Typically nurses do total patient care but this patient had an aide stay beside him under my supervision. One patient had dressing changes from self-inflicted wounds that had become infected. Two patients had dangerously high blood pressures. I monitored them closely, worked with their physicians to obtain medication orders, and tried to reduce their anxiety levels. My new admission was particularly agitated and at times hysterical, needing loads of reassurance, explanations, and TLC. Another patient was demanding and confused; she kept asking about things we had “stolen” from her and was aggressive. Another needed foot care for a horrible fungal infection covering both feet. In the midst of these needs, I tried to meet 1-to-1 with each patient as prescribed in their treatment plans.
I kept trying to work harder and faster. As the shift progressed I became wearier and wearier. No matter what I did or how much I reassured, consoled, worked on coping skills, or medicated patients, the needs just kept coming. I tensed up and had to stay focused so I wouldn't be impatient or abrupt with patients. In the nurses' station I complained with other staff. When the exhausting shift was finally over, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had offered good care, advocated for patients, and kept everyone safe.
The next morning in those fleeting moments between sleep and wakefulness, a thought nudged my brain: You forgot to ask Me for help…. I recognized the Holy Spirit speaking to me. I didn't feel condemned, just remiss that I had failed to draw on the mightiest power in the universe to help me. Before work that day I spent time in Bible study and prayer, and prayed on the way to work that God would help me and assign me patients for whom he wanted me to be responsible. But in the heat of the moment, I tried to do everything on my own. As I rushed around I didn't even think about God or breathe quick prayers (and I'm the editor of a Christian nursing journal!).
In Genesis 15:1, God came to Abraham at a time when he needed protection and reassurance, saying “Do not be afraid…I am your shield….” A shield protects and defends. In Psalms God tells his people he is our shield and the lifter of our heads (3:3), he surrounds us with goodwill as a shield (5:12), he is our strength and impenetrable shield (28:7), he is our help and shield (33:20). In Psalm 91 we discover that the person “who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
I didn't dwell in the shelter of the Most High that work shift, and I certainly wasn't resting in the shadow of the Almighty. If I had said to God, “You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust,” he would have saved me from the “fowler's snare” and covered me with his feathers. In the midst of struggles I could have found refuge under his wings. God's faithfulness could have been my shield and rampart (Psalm 91:2-4).
I am a fiercely autonomous person who often tries to do things independently. I am praying that in the future in my work with JCN, in NCF, and as a staff nurse—especially when snares arise—I will proactively dwell in God's shelter. All I have to do is ask.