I am a nurse and I’m afraid I must admit to being somewhat “burned out.” Who am I kidding? I have been utterly fried much of the time. Those of you in the field of health care, with much experience behind you, know exactly what I’m talking about. The hours we work are long and stress levels very high, even in long term care facilities, where one would expect a slower pace…not so! We have given up a great deal to be care- givers. We work holidays, weekends, and are often mandated to work double shifts in order to provide adequate coverage. State regulations as well as individual facility policies are ever changing and though we can surely be thankful for many of these changes, I fear much of it has only served to deflate our already flagging ranks. You’ve heard the news reports about the critical need for nurses. Though part of this is surely due to society’s call to the corporate world and a call away from the humanitarian professions, it is also due to those of us leaving the field. An employee at our local unemployment office was reported to have said, that at least five nurses a week come through his office. Here’s the kicker… they have jobs, but are asking what else is available. “Anything but nursing!”
This profession, which I used to see as my “call”, has become a job. This is a sad commentary, as it’s all I’ve done for thirty-five years. What used to be care- giving has become drudgery in a routine of passing medications and mountains of paper work, as well as overseeing nurses aides, who are the real care- givers. Many days I have such distaste for what I do for a living, I could scream…and some days I do.
Needing to have an income has kept me in this work. Remembering what it was that first made me know this was my niche, has kept me there too. I often search for that piece that’s lost and on a rare and wonderful day I find it. The following is just one small example of what I recognized as a “nudge” from the Lord. I am so grateful for it and though many times I am blinded by the agenda put before me by my employers and the myriad of regulations we all must follow…I have determined to find, within the bureaucracy, the human element that the world seems bent on stealing.
“Cup of cold water!” a barely audible voice called out. I was in my usual rush mode, as I stopped to discern what I’d heard. There it was again, a bit stronger this time, “Please, could I have a cup of cold water?” I had to stop for a moment as I recognized the significance of that call, and thanked God for the opportunity of service.
The woman calling for that cup of cold water, had been seriously ill, was very weak and unable to even hold the cup. What an honor to serve Him in this simple way…a cup of cold water tipped to the lips of an elderly woman, so grateful to receive it.
Mathew 25:35 “… I was thirsty and you gave me to drink…”
Mathew 25:40 “…as you did it to one of the least these, you did it unto me.”
I desire with all that’s in me to no longer punch the time clock one day. I understand how very selfish that sounds, but I assure you that through daily prayer, and through answers to those prayers, I really can be a good nurse until that day comes. I will seek out that needy one and whether it be a cup of water, a hand to hold, or a prayer to be offered up…I will continue to serve faithfully. As long as this is where God has me, I have no choice in the matter and had best get on with my “love lesson”.
For thirty- five years I have been a nurse. This article’s beginning reveals some of my negative impressions about the profession, and now I would like to finish with the flip side.
That experience with the woman above was indeed a significant call to service…and honestly I can’t tell you how many cups of cold water I’ve given to the thirsty, or those I’ve spoon fed, or bathed. I can’t tell you how many wounds I’ve dressed, fevers I’ve cooled,or backs I’ve rubbed. I have cleaned up urine, feces, vomit and blood. I have had the most sacred privilege of holding the dying in my arms and giving him or her permission to go. I’ve been the one to tell the grieving, the good things they so desperately need to hear about their loved one’s passing.
These tasks and so much more, I now see as God’s gift, not to my patients, but to me. Opportunity upon opportunity to serve, not only the world, (my small one) but my Father, who has not only provided the opportunities, but has enabled me.
As I reflect on all of this I must also confess that there have been countless times that I did not do these things…I have not always fulfilled the call upon my life. I have to wonder how many thirsty missed that cup of cold water, or some other need being met, or some simple comfort being provided, because of my haste, or my ignorance, or my shrinking back from the responsibility.
Yes, I am often in a burned out condition…but not one of those acts of kindness are at the root of it. In fact they are probably the only things that enable me to keep punching that time clock.
I will continue to be frustrated by the “profession” of nursing. I will continue to get angry over the inane new regulations, the continually changing policies, and the added workload that seems to have little or nothing to do with care- giving. I recognize the world and the things of it, and I recognize that I must answer to a higher call. While I am commanded to obey my earthly master…my employer…I must, above all, walk in the spirit of love with ears attentive to the call for a cup of cold water.
Heavenly Father, May every care- giver that you have called into your service be blessed today, with greater insight. May we all evaluate where we stand with you, Father…not in self- condemnation, but self- evaluation. May we see every need before us that we can meet, as our God given responsibility and call to act.
Forgive me Father, for I know there have been many that I have missed over the years for whatever reason I had. I pray that my ears, eyes, and spirit will be sensitive to the call of the needy, whether it be a patient, neighbor, stranger, or friend. Teach me, Father not to have an agenda of my own, but to walk among them as Jesus did, fulfilling your plan.
Thank you, Father, for the forgiveness available to me through Christ Jesus, and for your promise of compassion and mercies, which are new every morning…making starting over, and a new beginning, not only possible, but a reality! In Jesus’ Name, Amen
Wonderful article! You give great insight to a profession that doesn't get the respect it deserves. We have all failed God in some way by our actions in every profession. That you have confessed means that He is working mightily in your life. He knows your anquish and desire. He will bring it to completion. God Bless you.