Tuesday, May 12, 2020


“Nurses dispense comfort, compassion and caring 
without even a prescription.”
- Val Saintsbury

It was shortly after 2 a.m. rounds when the call light panel lit up and chimed.  I could hear groans as the nursing staff all looked at the panel, seeing the room number which was requesting our assistance.  Much to the relief of the other nurses hovered over their charts, I quickly responded that I would answer the call!

Entering the room of one of the most difficult patients to whom I have ever given care, I asked  how I could help. This patient was a Catholic priest, and in his final stage of cancer. Over  previous weeks and admissions, I had the opportunity of having multiple short conversations with him. On one occasion, he asked if I was married and noted that I did not wear a wedding ring. I smiled and told him yes, that I was happily married and blessed with a wonderful husband and three beautiful children. The questions followed, with the priest wanting to know my husband’s occupation, the size of our “parish," and even asking if my husband preached "store house" tithing. Over the multiple times that I answered his call light, he would question me about our church and beliefs.  

Answering the call light this night was similar in his requests for care, every little request before leaving his room taking forever to complete (pull the tray table ½ inch this way, put my head up one inch, move my water glass ¼ inch that way…the details were so time consuming), but was also strikingly different. As he again turned the subject to our church and religion, I felt God’s nudge to share with him the plan of salvation. I told him that we both knew that death was imminent, and I wanted him to be prepared to meet Jesus. Just as I would speak to a child, using the scriptures of the Roman Road, I shared that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; Jesus died on the cross for our sins because of His great love for us; if we confess our sins to Him and believe Him for forgiveness He is faithful to forgive us, and we can accept His gift of eternal life. He then asked me if I would pray with him. I took his hand and asked him to pray along with me as I prayed the sinner’s prayer. When the prayer was ended, with tears in his eyes, he peacefully said, “I think I can sleep now.” Then he made a statement that left me wondering, “If anyone gives you any trouble for being in here so long (about 45 minutes) refer them to me.” 

On my next scheduled shift, my supervisor, a sweet Methodist lady, asked me if I had heard that our patient had passed away. You see, when I had been interviewed by her for the position on the Oncology Unit, she told me to feel free to pray or read scripture with any patient that was open to it. So even though I was a Protestant working in a Catholic hospital, I had an open door to share Jesus with those who were so close to eternity, and my opportunities were many! Hearing the account of my last moments with this patient, my supervisor became so excited and said, "Oh, just wait until I tell the nuns and priests!" Then she began to tell me the rest of the the story.  My patient was not just a priest, he was one who had oversight of the diocese in that area. (No wonder he told me to refer questioners to him!) The nuns and priests in the hospital had felt he was so high above them that they could not minister to his spiritual needs. My supervisor said they would be so thrilled to know that someone had met that need. God had used me that night, just a simple nurse following the nudge of the Holy Spirit, to share Jesus. I was just a willing vessel through which He could work.  Someday, I plan to see that Catholic priest in heaven!

When considering my role as a nurse, I have always felt it to be a ministry. An unknown author once said, “When you are a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours.” Knowing that every human being to which I give physical care has a soul, I also have an obligation to minister to their spiritual and emotional needs to the best of my ability. I have been so grateful for the opportunities to minister to the spiritual needs of my patients. Nursing is rewarding work, but also very hard work for those who are in it for more than a paycheck. You don’t leave your ministry at the time clock when you end your shift. Your concern and prayers for your patients continue. You celebrate even baby steps toward recovery, and you grieve when the doctor says, “We have done all we can do.”  

As we celebrate Nurses Week, I congratulate every nurse working in every field of the profession! Mahatma Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Some are on the front lines of service frantically trying to save the life of someone hovering between life and death. Others are behind a desk making policies and putting in place procedures for those life and death situations. Wherever you are as a nurse, I challenge you to give it your best. Your character will be as important as the knowledge that you have obtained. We need hard working, ethical, and morally upright Christian nurses to most effectively minister to the whole patient-physically, spiritually and emotionally. And during this time of COVID – 19, treating all three is more needed than ever.  

Congratulations on choosing to serve others!  Happy Nurses’ Week!

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