Studying nursing at a Christian nursing school is a privilege in the United States, but it is an unknown concept in the United Kingdom (UK). There are no Christian nursing schools or universities in the country. In contrast, review the section in this issue noting universities or colleges with a Christian emphasis on higher education. This list is only a sampling of what is available to nursing students in the United States.
Conversely, the education system in the UK is provided by the government and is separate from church or Christian life. We are taught well at university about being a competent nurse; we are taught in church about how to be a Christian. However, we need God's extra grace to connect the dots and figure out how to be a Christian nurse. It may be easy to compartmentalize faith, to feel we can express it at church or in Christian gatherings, but we have to keep it under wraps in the often spiritually hostile environment of work. Increasingly, it is difficult to express Christian views or values. You can imagine, then, the tension and discontent our nurses feel when they have neither permission nor time to appropriately share their Christian faith in the workplace.
Add to this the struggle for survival that Christian nursing fellowships have faced in the UK; the last one, a remnant of Christian Nurses and Midwives Association, recently closed. Without any significant Christian influence or support in nursing, many nurses are feeling isolated and in need of input.
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) has begun welcoming nurses and midwives as members, trying to plug this much-felt gap in spiritual resource and support. Not surprisingly, Christian nurses appreciate a local place of connection. To this end, we have begun adding monthly CMF nurse fellowship groups.
HOW ARE WE GROWING?
First, we pray for new leaders. Many Christian nurses and midwives would love to be part of a group for support, encouragement, and teaching. However, the number of individuals willing and able to lead is significantly lower. Leadership can be a daunting prospect. For a new group to be born, someone must speak three courageous words: “I will lead.”
At CMF, we provide some training, and it is always a thrill to see the next generation of Christian nurses develop their ability to lead and organize, learning skills to equip them for a life of serving God. Group leaders can be as creative as they like in getting the word out to fellow students on their campus as well as to qualified nurses and midwives through local churches and hospitals. Usually the group program rotates through a cycle along the lines of a guest nurse speaker, an ethical discussion, Bible study, and a social event, although each group is unique, depending on the needs of the nurses there.
In the last three years, we have seen 20 groups started. Some groups meet exclusively as students, others as qualified nurses. Where qualified nurses and students meet together, there is great encouragement. Students benefit much from godly nurses who can model what bringing glory to God in the workplace resembles. Students also appreciate being looked after by qualified nurses. Student housing in the UK is often small and basic; being welcomed into the home of someone a little further along in life's journey is a treat. Qualified nurses gain too, as students can bring enthusiasm and can help older nurses get their fire back.
At a recent gathering, a student nurse prayed: “Thank You, God, for these meetings and how they encourage and excite us. I feel ready to go back to placement on Monday not only to be a nurse, but to be a Christian nurse.”
Local CMF fellowship groups are helping nurses across the UK to serve and love God with all their hearts and lives, and to see their nursing as an outworking of their worship and service. The chance to connect, support, and pray with others who know the opportunities and challenges of the job is vital in keeping hope and faith alive. Please pray for us as we seek to start CMF nurse groups in every major university city in the UK!