Everywhere we look, these days seem to be bleak with bad news. From the global pandemic to the horrors witnessed by the workers on the front lines, our world is broken, and we have overwhelming access to the graphic details. So many nurses are experiencing burnout and pain while patients suffer or die.
Why is this happening and what good can come from it? There seems to be much hopelessness, despair, and lots of extra work for healthcare providers, but how can we help ourselves and our patients restore hope that has been lost? This pandemic has taken away much, but one thing it cannot steal is our Hope, with a capital H. I think we have all experienced a patient, co-worker, or even ourselves having given up hope. This makes us wonder, what can be done to restore it?
Have we considered that we may have been placed in our current situation “for such a time as this?” Let’s get back to the fundamentals of nursing which looks at the entire person, including his or her soul. Chaplains are busy, visitors are banned, and even we, the nurses, are unable to hug our family and friends, but there is One who never leaves us—the One who is right there, ready to carry us through the most difficult days. This experience affords us the opportunity to choose whether to pull closer to God or to let our hearts wander further away and become hardened.
Maybe you’re agreeing that this sounds great, but you don’t know where to start. You might be admitting, I can’t save the world and I wasn’t even able to save my patient last week. Although it’s true that we as healthcare providers cannot save everyone, God beckons us to play an exciting part in His perfect plan.
Let’s ask ourselves each morning, What can I do to make a difference in one person’s life today? Soul care is not some abstract idea. Rather, it may be as simple as pouring a fresh cup of water. If you’re asking what difference a single action make, hear what Jesus tells us in Mark 9:41: “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward” (ESV). Caring enough to quench a person’s thirst is a demonstration of mercy and care in Christ’s name. What an exciting thought to know each of us can play a part in God’s bigger plan to draw people to Himself.
Many of us are already utilizing the HOPE spiritual assessment tool (Anandarajah & Hight, 2001). When time is tight, the mnemonic HOPE can help us remember the role we have been assigned by focusing our thoughts inward when outward circumstances are crashing around us.
HEAR--What is God (or your patient or co-worker) asking you to do? What need can be met right now? If a patient or co-worker is expressing a need in an unclear or unpleasant way, ask God for wisdom to decipher that need among the background noise. It may take prayer or simply active listening.
OFFER—What can you give right now? The request may not be feasible; however, everyone has something to give, maybe something simple such as a snack or merely a thank you. Asking for help to complete the request is OK, and if the request is truly unobtainable, be up front and offer what can be done or given. Something can always be done, even if it seems small.
PRAY—For God to give us power! If we’re followers of Christ, we have His power in us. If we’re not able to pray aloud, we can still whisper silently to our Heavenly Father. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words: But He (Christ) said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV). Pray for God’s power to enable you.
ENCOURAGE—So often we try to lift others up, but God wants to comfort each one of us. Even in the darkest hours, God is present, and we can experience real hope. In John 16:33 (ESV), Jesus tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” While circumstances may seem grim and hopeless, Jesus is not controlled by the situation. His peace and power still have full effect. Believe him!
Utilizing the mnemonic HOPE helps to support relationships, especially on days when there seems to be no moment to spare and yet everyone needs hope restored. May God’s Spirit wash upon us to give us the strength and courage to make a difference today!
Brittany Long, RN-BSN, has been a nurse for 10 years and has served in various roles, her favorite being acute care clinical instruction. She believes nursing is her ministry and is currently working to further her education as a family nurse practitioner.
Anandarajah, G., & Hight, E. (2001). Spirituality and medical practice: Using the HOPE questions as a practical tool for spiritual assessment. American Family Physician, 63(1), 81-89. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/0101/p81.html
A free, downloadable Bible study, Encounters with Jesus, is an avenue to gain hope and understanding of how Jesus redefines our perspective and faith. Find an abundance of spiritual resources for personal and professional growth on the NCF website.