Nursing’s Sacred Space

Call bells and IV alarms sound. The telephone rings. Everyone and everything requires my attention. The distractions are endless, pulling in many directions. I feel inadequate to juggle it all. I’m supposed to be a professional nurse, fielding questions with efficiency and grace. I’m supposed to be the person with answers for the patient who wonders how long he’ll live, for the family asking, Why did this happen to my loved one?

These questions have no answers. The unit’s sounds bombard me; instead of equilibrium, I feel frustration. Long hours have left me tired. Annoyed by what feels like incompetence, I want to lash out toward my patients, but my needs and frustrations must take a back seat; the patients are not at fault. They’re trusting me to show up. That trust is important, so I show up. I hear God’s words in my heart, “Daughter, my power is made obvious in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Taking a deep breath, I set the distractions aside. Though I’m only one person, I’m present now. I remind myself to look my patient in the eyes and be in the moment. “I’m sorry it took me a bit to get to you. How can I help?” Their eyes reveal fears and insecurities behind a wall of biting words and emotional bitterness. I wonder, God, is this what it is to see with your eyes? I silently hear his voice: “Love them as I love you” (John 15:12). Ah, yes. God’s love is patient and kind, not self-centered. His love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). With this reminder, I see past patients’ walls built to protect their forced vulnerability, a result of being hospitalized.

Deep breath. I understand, Lord. This patient’s room is sacred space. The world in the hallway awaits with charting, orders, assignments, but that is unimportant right now. My mental lists can wait, allowing me to listen to this patient who needs physical, mental, and spiritual attention. Lord, let me be your hands and feet. While I care for the physical, you care for the heart. I’m inadequate, God. I’m new and bumble around, but please provide a balm to this person’s hurting heart.

With my frustrations set aside and my timeline paused, I can reevaluate what’s most important after leaving the room. With the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7), I listen and teach. I humble myself and push aside my mental image of the perfect nurse. “I don’t know about that, but let me try and find out,” I admit to my patient. “That’s a great question; here’s what I know…”

My time is not wasted. By offering time and presence, the fierce reactions of most patients recede, and humanity returns. Calm seeps into their eyes. By my recognizing that this experience has been difficult for them, by validating their feelings, they are closer to restored health. Most patients are vulnerable, unable to fight for themselves, so I must advocate for them. Leaving the sacred space of each patient’s room, the chaos, distractions, and frustrations again loom large. My plate feels too full, but it is okay. Vigilance is renewed as I go to the next thing. God’s power is made perfect in my weakness. His strength carries me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Breathe.

Abigail Tingle, BSN, RN, graduated from Colorado Christian University in May 2020. She lives in Tuscaloosa, AL, and has worked on the cardiac unit and in the NICU at DCH Regional Medical Center.

This article is excerpted from “Sacred Space” in the Practicing column of the current issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing  Get full access to every article—online and in print—when you join NCF as a member.


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