DEVOTIONAL: Nursing: A Call to Practice on Holy Ground
Jone Tiffany, DNP, CNE, is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Florence Nightingale once asked her students, “Did you ever think about how Christ was a nurse, and stood by the bedside and with his own hands nursed and did for the suffering?” (Widerquist as cited in Shelly, 1995, p. 3). Nightingale envisioned caring for patients as a ministry. Nurses are called to care for and minister to God's people in all circumstances. Nursing as a discipline grew out of a Christian understanding that the human person is created out of the image of God; nursing views the person as the unity of mind, body, and spirit. Christian nursing is a ministry of compassionate and informed care for the whole person in response to God's grace toward a sinful world, which aims to foster optimum health and bring comfort in suffering and death for anyone in need.
I will never forget the last minutes I spent with Oscar.* He had cancer and was a widower with no children. Oscar was a strong Christian Swedish believer with whom I had the priviledge to be with when he passed at age 92. Toward the end of the evening shift, it became clear he would not make it through the night. I stayed after my shift to sit with him because I did not want him to die alone. I sat and held his hand as he drifted in and out. Right before he died he became very lucid, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Never forget God called you to care for people as Jesus did. To represent Christ's love...and that those nursing shoes walk on holy ground.”
These profound words have helped me become aware of God's rhythm of love and grace, express faith with my lips, but also with my hands and feet. I pray that you'd experience God's will in your life as you learn to follow Jesus. God's will for your life is to discover your gifts and to be fully who you have been created to be. In the Bible, the Apostle Peter's words are beautifully clear and simple: “Whoever serves, let it be with God's strength.” (I Peter 4:11, NIV). That is a lovely thought for nurses, whose calling is about serving people in all kinds of situations—to do this work on holy ground.
Shelly J. A. (1995). Is prayer unprofessional? Journal of Christian Nursing, 12(1), 3.
Attila or Teresa?
One particularly busy day at clinical, the nursing instructor was scurrying about the unit when a student approached her. The instructor asked how she could help. The student replied, “You know, when you come down the hall, I never know if I am going to meet Attila the Hun or Mother Teresa.”
The instructor smiled and said, “Good! That means I am doing my job! When we are giving medications and doing treatments there needs to be no room for error. But, when we are giving spiritual care or offering support then we can just be.”
The student laughed and walked away!
Profession or Calling?
Although nurses are held to similar standards through the American Nurses Association and the State Boards of Nursing, nursing practice can vary. What characteristics do great nurses have in common? Gokenbach (2014) identified five attributes she believed differentiate between nurses who practice a profession and those who answer a calling: compassion, empathy, selflessness, self-awareness, and lifelong learners with strong technological skills. Compassion, empathy, and selflessness would probably top the list of many people's “attributes of fabulous nurses.” Self-awareness includes the understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses and how these affect how we act or react in different situations. Lifelong learners understand that to provide the best care possible, one must always be seeking to expand ones knowledge base. This includes the ability to personalize technology into practice in a way that enhances patient care.
As we continue to practice nursing on holy ground, may we be reminded of the differences between practicing a profession and answering a calling to represent God's love to our patients.
Gokenbach V. (2014, May 24). 5 Things that make a good nurse great. Retrieved from http://nursetogether.com/5-things-that-make-a-good-nurse-great
* Name has been changed to protect patient privacy.