My mom was a nurse. My sister, my daughter, and my niece followed in her footsteps. Two of my best friends are nurses, and I know and love countless other nurses. Personally, I never understood the allure. I was always uncomfortable with the sights, sounds, and most of all, the smells of hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices – or encountering anyone who might be sick or, God forbid, dying. So nurses were always people I respected; I was grateful they were willing to do the job of caring for the sick and dying.
May 6-12 is national nurses week, and the theme for 2022 is “Rooted in Strength.” This is a powerful and appropriate theme for nurses. The word rooted means, firmly established, grounded. Rooted also has a spiritual meaning – stability. Strength means to be physically strong, able to withstand great force or pressure.
Grounded. Able to withstand great pressure. Stable. That seems like an accurate description of the nurses I know and love.
In my short career in healthcare chaplaincy, first in the hospital and now in hospice, I have been honored to know and to work alongside some pretty amazing nurses, my family and friends not excluded. I find them to be unmoving in their love, care, compassion, and commitment to excellence in patient care. I regularly witness nurses who go above and beyond to be present for their patients, families, and teammates. They are the consistent stability of any healthcare team, as they are the ones who tend to the patients on a regular basis.
Nurses are also the strength the families need to face the unimaginable. They are honest in their assessments and compassionate in their delivery. But nurses also recognize their limitations; they understand it is more than medication, therapy, and caring hands that will bring comfort and the ultimate healing to the patient and to their families. Nurses are often the first to recognize the need for spiritual care and call the chaplain. This partnership between the physical and the spiritual is something I have learned to love and embrace, as I learn and grow as a chaplain because of these nurses. They inspire me.
Of course, there are times they are exhausted, frustrated, and feel drained of hope – yet they soldier on, getting up the next day to do it all over again. It is obvious they are not here for the glamour or the notoriety; because in healthcare work, there is none. When you work in healthcare you discover the secret allure, far greater than any VIP or celebrity status. There is a spiritual connection, a fulfillment, a sacred space, that I have never experienced in any other ministry work.
My view from the edge, working alongside amazing nurses, has given me a new perspective that helps me to see beyond the sights, sounds, and even the smells of sickness and death. I no longer rely solely on my five senses as I look into the eyes of the person who is dying; I realize there is no other place I am supposed to be, I have been called, by God, to this sacred space.
I know I can speak for any of us who has witnessed a nurse at work when I say to all of them: We appreciate you; we celebrate you. We are so proud and blessed to be able to work alongside you. Happy nurses week, you truly are rooted in strength.