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Nursing for the Kingdom of God

Eckerd, Nancy A.

doi: 10.1097/CNJ.0000000000000205
Feature: education
Free
SDC

ABSTRACT: The importance of nursing as Christ would is vital for Christian nurses. At one Christian school of nursing, students are taught the concept of Kingdom Nursing: focused, dynamic, patient-centered care, inspired by the qualities of Christ and influenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the nurse.

At one Christian school of nursing, students are taught the concept of Kingdom Nursing.

Nancy A. Eckerd, MS, RN, is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Nancy has served on domestic missions in the United States and global missions in China, Honduras, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and the countries of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Accepted by peer-review 2/15/2015.

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In the nursing department of the Christian university where I teach, our mission is “Preparing professional nurses to be Christ's hands and heart, to touch the world, one person, family, and community at a time” (Oklahoma Wesleyan University [OKWU] School of Nursing, n.d.). The importance of nursing as Christ would is vital for Christian nurses. But how does one put this concept into action? If students prepare a spiritual assessment or pray with a patient, have they passed the Christian nurse test? I believe Christian nurse educators are accountable to educate nurses who emulate the essence of Christ. At OKWU, we call that Kingdom Nursing.

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KINGDOM NURSING

The Gospel writers record over 100 verses where Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of heaven” or “kingdom of God.” When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he prayed, “Our Father in heaven... your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The idea of the kingdom of God implies God is in control, and his servants do things his way. From that perspective, kingdom nursing is focused, dynamic, patient-centered care, inspired by the qualities of Christ and influenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the nurse. The goal of kingdom nursing is to offer Christ-centered compassionate care.

Scripture teaches that when we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, who came to make us right with God (John 3:16), the Holy Spirit comes to live in us (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:13). Kingdom nurses are Christ-followers who have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and try to follow his lead. They view the contribution of Christ-centered care as a personal gift to God. Such nurses are motivated by service that is honoring and glorifying to God, guided by the quality assurance principle found in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV), “So...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

At OKWU, we have a dedicated course called Spiritual Aspects of Nursing. Fully aware that we are to “serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13, NIV), kingdom nursing is encouraged in this course. The curriculum incorporates spiritual health and assessment for students and clients, Christian worldview and apologetics, and assessment of spiritual gifts (Dameron, 2015). We evaluate lives of past kingdom servants, such as Mother Teresa, who lived out and prayed: “The light, O Jesus, will be all from you; none of it will be ours. It will be you, shining on others through us” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta, n.d.).

The course also includes exploration of social and professional issues, interpreting issues from a Christian worldview, and caring without bias. Additionally, the OKWU pillars of faith guide the course, one of which proclaims: “The Practice of Wisdom is the goal for all members of the university community, who work to promote healing and wholeness in a broken culture and hurting world” (OKWU, n.d.; James 3:17). In order to emulate the character of Christ, focus is placed on application of the fruit of God's Spirit in our lives, as found in Galatians 5:22-23.

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KINGDOM NURSING EMPOWERMENT

Jesus sent out his disciples “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:2, NIV). As Christ's disciples today, OKWU nursing students are encouraged to participate in healthcare missions to domestic and global underserved areas. In our experience, in comparison to typical clinical experiences, evidence of student dependence on the leading of the Holy Spirit appears to increase during mission trips, where students come to a new understanding of kingdom nursing. After mission experiences, the students are more likely to use a kingdom nursing focus when they return. Students on a recent healthcare mission attest to the experience as “life changing,” “a test of faith,” and “God-focused” (Blain, 2014).

The professional Code of Ethics for Nurses encourages nurses to make morally excellent decisions (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2015). The Holy Spirit is instrumental, and must be relied upon, in guiding the kingdom nurse's practice for maintaining and increasing moral character and integrity. The kingdom nurse attuned to the work of the Holy Spirit, through personal Bible study, prayer, and worship, will sense direction in morally excellent care.

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FRUIT FROM GOD'S SPIRIT

Galatians 5:22-23 (AMP) indicates, “But the fruit of the Holy Spirit (the work which his presence within accomplishes) is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The fruit or result of having God's Spirit in our lives speaks to the moral virtues of Christian character that believers in Christ should possess. This teaching is the logical genesis of a nine-point focus that supports the concept of a kingdom nurse.

Love is the first of the nine fruits of the Spirit. Romans 13:10 states, “Love does no harm to its neighbor.” Doing no harm to a neighbor (patient) speaks directly to the nursing principle of nonmaleficence, avoidance of harm or hurt, which is a core element of healthcare oaths and nursing morality principles (ANA, 2012). The kingdom nurse will use God's influence on his or her mind to anticipate actions and motives, working to keep the patient from actual or potential harm. The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, writes in 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Colossians 3:14 (ESV), states, “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” The kingdom nurse displays a sense of love that goes beyond reasonable and accepted nursing care. The result of this loving practice creates rapport with the patient and provision of consistent, focused care. In Matthew 7:12 (NIV), kingdom nurses are encouraged: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit. Romans 12:12 encourages Christians to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Joy follows the kingdom nurse's obedience as she or he prays daily. The supernatural joy in the midst of dire situations and diagnoses serves as an insulator and helps provide confident service in the face of sometimes undesirable circumstances. Romans 12:15 gives encouragement to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” The kingdom nurse stands alongside the patient in good news and bad. We are advised in 1 Corinthians 9:22 (ESV) to “become all things to all people...” The result is a sense of compassion, followed by an offering of joy that God controls all circumstances. The apostle John encourages us, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24, NIV). The kingdom nurse has confidence that praying in God's will produces God's results and joy.

Peace is the third fruit of the Spirit. “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11, NIV). Peace is a blessing the kingdom nurse can pass along to an anxious patient. Peace is reflected as confidence in the outcome, regardless of circumstance. In 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV), Paul writes, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.” There are no limits on godly peace. The offering of a peaceful spirit from a kingdom nurse protects the nurse, as well as the patient, from a sense of chaos. Romans 15:13 (NIV) states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It is possible for kingdom nurses to possess perfect peace that comes from God, and it is often coupled with joy (Philippians 4:4-8).

Patience is the fourth fruit of the Spirit. Ephesians 4:2 (NIV) states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Patience results in respect and high regard toward others. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, NIV). Patience and prayer allow the kingdom nurse's anxiety to be replaced with focus and confidence, and may help diffuse patient anxiety. The prophet Isaiah (40:31, NKJV) states, “But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” The kingdom nurse is patient to wait on God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, and then respond accordingly. The reward is endurance, renewed strength, and divine support. This helps provide the patient with freshness in delivery of routine skills and care.

Kindness is the fifth fruit of the Spirit. Proverbs 31:26 (ESV) notes, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teachings of kindness is on her tongue.” The kingdom nurse approaches the patient with knowledgeable, professional confidence and tenderness in words and actions. Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) encourages, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” This Scripture speaks to the heart of the kingdom nurse's character. Kindness and tenderness are generalized to patients and colleagues.

Goodness is the sixth fruit of the Spirit. In 1 Timothy 6:18 (ESV), Christ-followers are told “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share.” Beneficence is a core virtue focusing on compassion, the desire to help others, and deals directly with patient advocacy (ANA, 2015). The kingdom nurse elevates this hallmarked nursing virtue to a spiritual level by delivering goodness in service to God. Romans 15:14 (ESV) states, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another.” Kingdom nurses are encouraged to reveal and transfer the goodness of Christ to others.

Faithfulness is the seventh fruit of the Spirit. “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3, ESV). The kingdom nurse is ever mindful of the need for faithfulness, to God and to the patient. Faith is the framework required for love and grace flowing from God to the patient. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV) it states, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” In addition to relying on what is heard or seen, the kingdom nurse remains confident and faithful that the Holy Spirit will direct his or her steps, thoughts, and actions. Romans 12:2 (ESV) encourages, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Daily renewal of the mind and heart is nurtured through Scripture and prayer. Without this, one leans on his or her own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6) and is devoid of the spiritual view of life situations.

Gentleness is the eighth fruit of the Spirit. The mindset of the kingdom nurse displays the gentle character of Christ in thought and in action. Compassion and empathy lend insight, as the Holy Spirit directs and illuminates patient needs. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8, ESV). James 3:17 (ESV) states, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” This Scripture beautifully defines the core being of a kingdom nurse. When the kingdom nurse emulates Christ, his character overflows to the patient. The kingdom nurse acts as a vessel, allowing the patient to experience God's love and compassionate care. Philippians 4:5 (NIV) encourages, “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” The kingdom nurse's display of gentleness is evident for all to see. The astute kingdom nurse is fully aware of the presence of God and welcomes his oversight in striving for mastery of gentleness.

Self-control is the last fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. Each kingdom nurse possesses the ability for self-control. When we ask God, self-control is freely given to serve not only God, but also others in the name of God. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). Titus 1:8 encourages self-control by stating leaders, which certainly applies to nurses, must be “a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” Kingdom nurse leaders must be above reproach in their character. Self-control allows the kingdom nurse to diligently remain on task, focusing on the well-being of the patient.

What sets kingdom nurses apart is reliance upon the Holy Spirit and willingness to act as a conduit in transporting the qualities of Christ. Their care-giving is guided by best practices and delivered with behavior enabled by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is a code of character dedicated believers in Christ strive to possess. When the fruits of the Spirit guide the delivery of care, the patient experiences the love of Christ. That is kingdom nursing.

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KINGDOM NURSING EXAMPLE

On a recent medical mission trip, a senior-level nursing student was emotionally crushed when she learned a young boy she was assessing had previously been diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The boy's mother stated she was a Christ-follower but had recently turned away from God. The student felt led to pray for the family and asked permission of the mother to pray, as well as have others join in prayer. The mother consented, and the student laid hands on the boy, praying for God's help and healing. To the student's surprise, the boy's sister interrupted with her own deeply felt prayer. The mother, sister, and student were deeply moved by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the mother's faith was encouraged.

This experience reveals the presence of fruit and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the student's life that led to kingdom nurse actions in a difficult situation. The boy and his family witnessed gentleness in the student's care and approach to prayer. The family noticed the student's confidence in the power of prayer and the unspoken acknowledgment that God is in control. Self-control allowed the student to stay focused on the task at hand, rather than succumb emotionally to the reality of this child's diagnosis. Through kindness and goodness, the student asked for permission and summoned others to pray for the family. Laying hands on the patient demonstrated faithfulness that God would somehow provide. The nurse displayed patience as the sister prayed. A sense of peace and reflection of joy was expressed by the student and family, all while the Holy Spirit supernaturally connected the family with the “love” of Christ. The result was that the patient supernaturally experienced Christ via the hands of the kingdom nurse.

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CONCLUSION

At the 67th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, The International Council of Nurses (2014) acknowledged the essential role nurses play in reaching the most vulnerable populations. “There is growing recognition that sufficient, adequately trained, and motivated health workers are essential for the health of the world's population. Equitable access to necessary health services of good quality cannot be achieved without an adequate number of appropriately prepared nurses” (p. 1). The most vulnerable among us are not necessarily bound by physical borders of land and country. Think beyond physical borders, and you have a kingdom of needs awaiting care from kingdom nurses. A kingdom nurse fulfills the vision of serving with the “heart and hands of Christ” (OKWU School of Nursing, n.d.), and the pillar of faith that promotes “healing and wholeness in a broken culture and hurting world” (OKWU, n.d).

American Nurses Association. (2012). Short definitions of ethical principles and theories: Familiar words, what do they mean? Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/EthicsStandards/Resources/Ethics-Definitions.pdf
American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretative statements. Silver Springs, MD: Author.
Blain J. (2014). Nursing majors serve Honduras over spring break. Retrieved from http://okwueagle.com/2014/03/nursing-majors-serve-honduras-over-spring-break
Dameron C. (2015). Spiritual gifts in nursing. Journal of Christian Nursing, 32(3), 143.
International Council of Nurses. (2014). Nurses are a vital resource for health. http://www.icn.ch/images/stories/documents/news/press_releases/2014_PR_09_IND_2014.pdf
Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center. (n.d.). Prayers: Radiating Christ. Retrieved from http://www.motherteresa.org/layout.html
    Oklahoma Wesleyan University. (n.d.). The mission and pillars. Retrieved from http://www.okwu.edu/mission
      Oklahoma Wesleyan University School of nursing. (n.d.). Our mission statement. Retrieved from http://www.okwu.edu/employment/school-nursing/
        Keywords:

        Christian nursing; fruit of the Spirit; kingdom of God; nursing education; Oklahoma Wesleyan University

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