Nursing and the Law of Christ
In a video interview, Dr. Jason G. Duesing, the provost at Midwestern Baptist Seminary referred to seminary as "formal•structured•discipleship."1 In the early church, all Christians were expected to attend "formal•structured•discipleship." In an article written by Dr. Duesing, a review of Gonzalez’s book on the history of theological education, Duesing said, "In the early church, Gonzalez shows how there were Christian schools, like Justin Martyr’s in Rome and the Alexandrian catechetical school, but these were not formal environs for the training of pastors but rather the simple study to the Christian faith."2 This makes since given that Jesus spent 2-3 years instructing His disciples before sending them out to make disciples and instruct the new converts. (cf. Mat. 28:16-20)
"The writing physician Rachel Naomi Remen speaks to the work of nursing as a service to others…She says that serving is different from helping in that helping is based on inequality; it is not a relationship between equals. Serving is a relationship between equals"3 "So when He (Jesus) had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet." (Jn. 13:12-13)
Nursing and theology are bond together, but in our secular university systems they have been separated. These schools do a good job of teaching the student nurse how to do nursing, but unless the student nurse understands why they are doing it, they will soon fall away from the bedside.
In a 2010 pilot study of baccalaureate nurses and hospital nursing; "Forty percent had left hospital nursing after an average of 6.4 years, with a median of 5 years. Just over 56% were still practicing hospital nursing, and of these, 81.8% were staff RNs, 26.9% of whom intended to leave hospital nursing in the next 3-5 years."4 That means that only 1/3 of all graduates with a baccalaureate of science in nursing will be at the bedside 10 years later. In my experience, it takes 2-3 years before a graduate nurse is competent and 10 plus years before he/she is an expert nurse. I venture a hypothesis that the statistics would be worse if studied today. Why are so many nurses leaving the bedside?
Suffering is the reason that nurses do not stay at the bedside. They themselves may not even know suffering is the reason for their departure. All hospital nurses see suffering, inflect suffering and are suffering within as a result. "Nurses working in an ICU, a NICU, on an Oncology unit, or in and ED come to work each day, aware that they will certainly witness suffering and that they are very likely to also see death."5
I have worked as Critical Care (ICU) Nurse for the majority of my career and have seen a great deal of suffering and death.
Suffering in critical care settings is often associated with a state of crisis. Many patients in emergency departments (ED), ICU, and cardiac care units (CCU) are amidst an abrupt transition from health to illness…Approximately 20% of deaths in the United States occur in ICU or following an ICU admission…Progress in treatments such as pharmaceuticals, renal dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and anesthetic/surgical techniques have made it possible to extend the lives of many people. These advances often lead to a public expectation that virtually all lives can be saved and thus magnify the shock and denial of the possibility of death…Nurses in ICU settings witness--and even directly experience--acute grief as they admit new patients to their care almost daily…Nurses working in critical care are called on to be technologically proficient, expert in detecting and resolving physical crisis, and highly skilled in guiding patients and families through the psychological and spiritual crisis of life-threatening acute illness and injury…Nurses in critical-care settings require spiritual reflection and replenishment to sustain their expert care.6Every day that I work in an ICU is difficult. I both see unimaginable suffering within patients and their families because of this I experience suffering. Without the continued guiding hands of the Great Shephard, His Word and Spirit, I would not be at the bedside today. Every shift that I work, I depart from the hospital grieving.
Why Nursing? Because Jesus Christ is Lord, and we are your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. (2Cor.4:5) Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn.13:34-35)
I began this post explaining how Jesus taught His disciples true love by example: First, He washed the disciple’s feet. Second, He laid down His life for the disciples. In-between these two great examples He commanded them to "love one another, just as I have loved you." (Jn.15:12) Afterword He sent them into the world as the Father sent Him. (Jn.20:21)
Why Nursing? Love is the reason. True love is sacrificial for the sake of the other. I believe that 2 Corinthians 4:5 should be the nursing motto. Plaquered on the walls of every nursing class room. "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake." Jesus Christ is Lord and nurses are bond-servants to the sick and injured for Jesus’ sake. In 2 Corinthians chapter 4 Paul was speaking about his apostolic ministry of the word, yet everything that he says in that chapter is applicable to the service of nursing. Nursing is love demonstrated to the other for Jesus’ sake. Nurses who understand this will be nurses indeed for a lifetime.
1 Jason G. Duesing, A Conversation with Dr. Jason G. Dueling, Video, accessed January 21, 2017, http://www.mbts.edu/video/conversation-dr-jason-g-duesing/.
3 Betty R. Ferrell and Nessa Coyle, The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 109.
4 Mary Jane K. DiMattio, Paula Roe-Prior, Dona Rinaldi Carpenter, Intent to Stay: A Pilot Study of Baccalaureate Nurses and Hospital Nursing, accessed January 4, 2017, http://www.professionalnursing.org/article/S8755-7223(10)00064-5/fulltext.
5 Betty R. Ferrell and Nessa Coyle, The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 88.
6 Ibid, 62-67.