Thousands of nurses today support a culture of acute complex care. We’re drawn to the high energy and rich learning experience of complex hospital-based nursing care. We’re fascinated with emerging medical science and real-time critical thinking and problem solving. Nurses are drawn to empowerment through responsibility, the deep sense of accomplishment in work, and the sense of calling to rescue people.
I recall a particularly troubling 3-11 p.m. surgical ICU shift early in my work in critical care. My patient was a victim of what we now call a social determinant of health--an infected gunshot wound inflicted in an unsafe neighborhood. I was only focused on rescuing my young patient from systemic infection. Now I think more about rescuing him from the effects of his preventable circumstance.
Such effects include violence and crime, the breakdown of families, financial crises, sexual abuse and trafficking, isolation caused by social media, and online gaming. These circumstances have led to significant behavioral and mental health challenges, and thus, an opioid crisis.
Nurses: Helping Make Things Right
Addressing the difficulties of inequality, poverty, loneliness, and fear resonates with the Christian imperative in the second part of the Great Commandment, which are Jesus' words about our neighbors:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NIV).
The biblical story of the Good Samaritan is about compassion, neighbors, and reconciliation. Jesus made it clear in this parable that his followers are to care about and act upon the needs of people who are in our path. For nurses, this relates to our patients and clients and their families and communities. This example stretches beyond the immediate health need of a person to the person's social, economic, and familial needs.
Christian nurses are entrusted with the Good News that God, in his great love, looked down on the sins of humanity and provided for us a Savior, his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus made things right for humankind in the eyes of God. We are likewise entrusted with the love of Christ who makes things right.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about healthcare; it’s good news about a love relationship with the one true living God. Only from there can we begin to explore our contribution to the health equity goals of our profession.
Advancing Reconciliation and Equity
We’re called to advance the work of reconciliation and renewal in the world. Paul describes this in 1 Thessalonians 2:4: “We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts” (NIV).
Christians face complex change as we engage in the hard work of reconciliation with Christ-like love as our example. Christian leader David Dockery writes in his book, Renewing Minds, that Romans 12 is a way for building community—authenticity, discernment, devotion to one another, honoring one another, enthusiasm, meaning “filled with God” (p. 95), patience, faithfulness, generosity, hospitality, blessing others, living peaceably, identifying with one another, harmony with others, genuine humility. Christian nurses take the example of Christ into their workplaces—from bedside to classroom to homeless shelter to board room.
- Let’s pray for this hopeful moment in nursing's history and for those leaders charting nursing's path forward.
- Pray that the light we have received will illuminate our way so that we may act circumspectly as strong agents of reconciliation in making things right for the health of all people.
- Let brotherly love abound in us (Hebrews 13:1).
- May we act boldly in the wonder of God's mighty love, knowing that God cares more and loves more deeply than we do.
- And may we keep our eyes fixed on God, delighting in his statutes with faith in his excellent Word.
- May we journey with our profession in a most honorable culture change, continuing in hopefulness and guided by the example of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
This post is condensed from “The Future of Nursing: Creating a Culture of Equity” by Carla Sanderson, PhD, RN, published in the January/March 2021 issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
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