I clearly recall the feeling of being a new registered nurse and wondering, Am I a Christian nurse or a nurse who happens to be Christian? I wrestled much with this question.
Many new nurses probably experience similar feelings. Each day begins with fears: What if I forget or do not give the right medication? Did I empty the Foley and record the intake and output for my shift?
I consistently asked God to help me avoid serious mistakes. As I moved from one patient room to another, I prayed, “God, I trust in you and lean not on my own understanding; I'm committing my work today to you. Please lead me on level ground.”
I'm confident his grace carried me through that first year on a medical-surg unit, as on the day I covered for a colleague. It was the 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. shift, not my usual one, and the pace could be chaotic.
The day went well until I encountered my last patient. He returned from an early morning test in time for the end of physician rounds. Unfortunately, my colleague hadn’t seen this patient or passed on any report. So when I walked in to assess him, the patient accosted me with sharp complaints of having had no breakfast. “The doctors came in, poked, and talked around me, yet no one has told me about my test,” he grumbled.
I tried to explain my plan, but he shouted foul language and ranted, “All people do is poke, but they don't care one way or the other.” As I struggled to hang fluids, tears were close to the surface. I had done nothing wrong; I was here to help.
Instinctively, I knew I could not break down. Standing straight, looking this man in the eyes, I told him I saw no need for coarse language, that he was not allowed to talk to me that way. “My work as a nurse is to help you; I’m on your side,” I asserted.
I was terrified of overstepping a boundary, yet I felt peace. I kept praying while performing a full-body assessment while he mumbled about me being a “goody, goody,” and that he could use whatever language he wanted, but his tone was less virulent.
As I left the room, I thanked him and promised to get him some food and his test information. While he ate, I sat at his bedside and talked to him about the test results. I was amazed at how these simple actions transformed this patient's hostile attitude. Later, he sought out my nurse manager to express his appreciation of the nurses!
That day, I realized I’m a Christian nurse, not a nurse who happens to be a Christian. I also learned that it can take little to show care and even win a patient's cooperation. Most significantly, I understood that to practice successfully, I must abide in Christ, the true vine (John 15:5). Only then will I be able to bear much fruit in my nursing career.
Author Olivia Bahemuka, DNP, RN, is an assistant professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. This article is excerpted from her column, “A New Nurse with a Firm Foundation,” in the July/September 2019 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
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