Of all the hundreds of nurses I have known, I have never known one who is an atheist. Just as there are no atheists in fox holes, there are no atheists in nursing. If by chance there may be some atheistic nurses in existence, I have never met one personally. Nurses from any faith do better for themselves and for their patients by actively practicing their faith. The Muslim nurse strives to be a better Muslim. The Hindu nurse strives to be a better Hindu, etc. They draw their strength and sustenance from their faith system. The nurse who tries to have consistent growth in her own spirituality for renewal is less likely to experience despair and burn out.
By far, my greatest role model has been Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In addition to being a nun with a deep, contemplative, marital relationship with God, she was a nurse and educator in every sense. Her scope of nursing, educational, and inspirational influence started very small and locally in Calcutta and expanded from there. By the grace of God, her influence expanded from modest beginnings to engulf the world with her multi-national effects of charity, love, caring, and compassion. She knew each and every one of her compassionate actions for any human being was not only being done for the person, but for God Himself. Her international impact continues across the world, even after her death, through the tremendous work of her Sisters of Charity.
When Mother Teresa was accused of baptizing and converting her Muslim and Hindu patients to her Catholic faith, the accusers learned that she was doing nothing of the sort. She was merely acknowledging their dignity as human beings and showing them universal love and caring. The caring can be universal amongst many religions when everyone’s humanity and dignity are the goal.
Ideally, I believe it is possible to care about every patient. Unless a nurse has a good system of coping and renewal, the emotional well-being is very much at stake. I believe this is why we see many nurses engaging in behaviors that aren’t the best for them: smoking, obesity, unwillingness to support each other, drug addictions, alcohol addiction, and unwillingness to celebrate each others’ successes. Other frequent trends we see in nurses’ lives reveal how else they struggle: inability to get to church for renewal because of shift work, depression, single-parenthood, and falling prey to abusive partners who they are trying to “help”. Many nurses are trying to meet their patients’ needs, Maslow’s lowest to highest, while failing to meet their own needs.
So the next time I am tempted to skip church or my work-out or healthy meal or my prayer time, I’ll remember what is written here and allow myself the luxury of taking better care of myself. I hope you will do the same. Heaven is waiting to hear from us.