Nursing : A ministry of dignity

Nakieshabedside(image credit)

I’m up late. Tomorrow I’ll start working night shifts at the hospital where I work as an Acute Rehabilitation nurse. It’s just temporary through the end of the year when I’ll complete my BSN… finally ( it only took 18 years).

I’m up late doing research for my Capstone project. It’s about how the nurses at my hospital can implement change to prevent our often elderly patients from acquiring pressure injuries (A.K.A. bedsores).  And all this research has me thinking about what motivates nurses and how much healthcare in the U.S. depends on nurses.

Nursing is not a lesser version of practicing medicine. It’s a way of honoring the dignity and worth of another human being through giving wholistic care, instruction and resources for the person’s good. But so often, especially bedside nurses, loose sight of what it is they do, or rather they’re disillusioned by what they do.

The pressure on bedside nurses from  hospital managers and administrators is to perform complex, fast-paced deliver of tasks and medications and education… endless requirements all documented to a T in 12 hours. The pressure from the bed (patients and family members) is often (not always- there are many thankful and inspiring people in those beds) to provide 5 star resort pampering. The pressure from our peers is often to act like we have it all together, like we don’t need help, like we can do anything. And all this pressure has many nurses loosing sight of what’s really important: human dignity. Our own, and our patients’.

This is where, for me, being a Christian nurse is so freeing. The yoke of hospital nursing in America is heavy, but Jesus’ yoke is light.

I don’t have to please the system, or please the patient even, I have to honor the Imago Dei in every one of my patients. When I make human dignity the aim of my nursing care, all the rules and regs and complaints fall like broken chains.

There is a healthcare crisis in the U.S. The fastest growing portion of the population are over 65 and many don’t have the resources or support to get the care needed to live and die with dignity.  There is a shortage of nurses in the U.S. and many are part of that fast-growing retirement age. Chronic disease plagues half of our populous and many don’t get the treatments, medications, appointments and care they need. Center for Medicaid Services has lists and codes and rules that make navigating the healthcare system a daunting task.  Amidst the dark maze of U.S. healthcare, nurses who value human dignity are respites of light.

Dear nurse, I know you feel overwhelmed. I do too. But stop and remind yourself, you’re a nurse. Not a doctor. Not a medication-technician. And you’re not a slave to the hospital or healthcare company you work for. You’re a nurse. A minister of help, hope and heart. You are a minister of dignity. Our healthcare system is a mess, but that person in that bed, no matter how nice or how cranky, how dependent on drugs or how debilitated with cancer, is a person made in the image of God.  And like Daniel Darling wrote referencing his surprising response to Horton Hears a Who:

‘Yes,’ I thought, “every person really is a… person, no matter what their usefulness to society, no matter how seemingly insignificant they are, no matter what their stature.”
A person’s a person. What a thought for our strange and confused age. – Daniel Darling, The Dignity Revolution. p.14

 

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