Called to Nursing

Florence Nightingale, a devout Christian in the Church of England tradition, felt called by God to nursing. Indeed, she regarded nursing as a “high calling.” Theologically, however, a call resides within the individual, as God calls persons, not professions. So nursing is a praiseworthy occupation to which God calls individuals.

But how does one know that God has called her or him to nursing or to any particular occupation? I believe that the threefold test of one's personal calling is that it serves God's glory, my joy, and neighbor's good. 

Serving God's glory is a reflection of obedience to one's call, for obedience to God intrinsically glorifies God. Work that also serves my joy allows me to work with satisfaction even when work is difficult or conducted under difficult circumstances. Serving neighbor's good reflects the fact that Christians are called to a life of service to God and to others, not simply service to oneself.

Some individuals are prevented from pursuing their call through personal or social circumstances: poverty, structural disadvantage, and other forces. Pursuing one's calling is a luxury not afforded to all. Freedom, opportunity, and choice undergird the ability to pursue one's calling. It raises the question: What can I do for those who are called to nursing but cannot come in response to that call?

Many face gender or cultural limitations that prevent them from pursuing higher education, specifically nursing education. There are many ways, small or great, that we can assist those who are called to nursing but cannot come. 

We can 

·       work to establish and build scholarships

·       offer lodging to a student 

·       mentor or tutor pre-entry students with weaker academic backgrounds 

·       provide childcare for the parent who needs time to study 

·       work with legislators who fund nursing education and research

·       research the factors that keep potential nurses out of nursing. 

A call to nursing can bring great joy; a call to nursing is also a call to share the joy that is found in nursing.

This post is excerpted from the Christian Ethics column in the April/June 2020 Journal of Christian Nursing. The column is written by Marsha D. Fowler, PhD, MDiv, MS, RN, FAAN, FRSA, a professor of Ethics and Spirituality at, Azusa Pacific University in California. 

Read more of Marsha’s columns and many other articles on the electronic Journal site. Some articles are always free; others are available only to JCN subscribers. A print and online subscription is a benefit of NCF membership


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