As a kid, I struggled with throat and tonsil infections. So when a throat infection hit me as an adult, I tried home remedies first: salt water gargles, mugs of tea with honey, cough drops, allergy pills, essential oils, nightly humidifiers, then steroids and antibiotics.
Then, during a medical checkup, I heard what I suspected: my tonsils needed to be removed. Part of me was scared. As a pediatric nurse, I’ve seen post-op bleeds and other complications. Everyone said the post-op pain of a tonsillectomy was much worse for an adult. But another part of me was hopeful; a tonsillectomy would resolve my suffering.
Surgery day arrived. I was humbled to be the one lying on the stretcher in the blue and white gown, watching the RN start the IV. Anxiety kicked in. As I lay there silently giving in to a state of panic, a Scripture verse popped into my head:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
These verses were the prescription I needed. To quell my growing anxiety, I prayed. “God, would you please calm my fear? Please be with the surgeon and the nurses as they care for me while I'm unconscious.”
Believing I'd be okay, I thanked God for the healing to come. Perhaps I also told myself to snap out it before the nurse asked how I was feeling. But she didn’t ask. Knowing I was a nurse, she may have assumed I had it all together, or perhaps I looked fine so she believed no reassuring words were necessary.
My experience as a patient got me thinking about how often I assume my patients are fine. Can you relate? Often, I overlook the spirit of the person in the bed. I see the broken or sick body and forget there’s a tender soul that may be afraid or have questions. I assume that because the patient is not complaining, he or she is fine.
As Christian nurses, we need to care for the whole person, not just the physical body. We need to ask—in a way that communicates openness to anxiety and fear—how the patient is really doing.
Our day-to-day routines as nurses can be scary, significant, life-changing events for patients. We need to implement the Golden Rule—treat each patient as we would like to be treated—by taking a moment to ask, “How are you feeling?” and then listen well.
Author Jennifer Robles, BSN, RNC, works in pediatrics at The Hospitals of Providence Memorial in El Paso, Texas. She also is on campus staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/Nurses Christian Fellowship at the University of Texas at El Paso.
This blog post is excerpted from the Practicing Column in the Oct-Dec 2019 Journal of Christian Nursing. Membership in NCF includes free print and online subscriptions, so join NCF!