Years ago, after an accident, I needed nursing care. I expected help from a nurse, but I got a lot more than I expected. As soon as the nurse walked in the door, I actually began to feel better. The complete healing came not too long after she left.
This experience taught me that the healing effect a nurse brings can occur even before the nurse ever administers to the patient. But, it also raised some questions.
Are nurses aware that they can influence a patient’s health in this way? Do they truly value this ability?
Chris Jones, in a recent Chicago Tribune column, describes how Anna Deavere Smith, an actress in Twilight: Los Angles, The West Wing, and Nurse Jackie, recently revved up thousands of nurses in Chicago.
Jones wrote, “At one point in the colossal main ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers — packed to the gills with members of National Nurses United — Smith persuaded the assembled nurses to stand, find three or 4 fellow nurses they did not know, look each nurse in the eye and say to each one in turn, ‘We need you to heal this country.’"
From reading Smith’s passionate plea, I can see that we all need reminders of what we can accomplish. And it is nice to know that if nurses didn’t already know they could impact the health of many, they are beginning to hear about it today.
Now, what enables a nurse to have such a healing impact before ever administering to a patient?
Recently, I sat next to a neurological nurse on a flight. She was returning home from a conference where she had been one of the facilitators. She spoke to me about the frustration she felt regarding her profession. She recognized the frequent lack of attention to caring for the “whole man” rather than just the body. She felt strongly that a patient’s spiritual nature needed appreciating and nurturing. She knew deep down that spiritual considerations were essential to experiencing lasting physical health.
After the flight, I came across a video of a panel discussion, Nursing's Spiritual Roots in Contemporary Practice, which had been hosted in 2009 by The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. The panelists echoed the sentiments of the neurological nurse and yet went further, answering my last question.
During the presentation, Peggy Burkhardt, Professor of Nursing at the University of West Virginia, shared her early experience in the Catholic faith. Then she explained that during the Dark Ages, priests and nuns were in charge of health care. However, when science and especially modern medicine established itself, basically, the church, including the spiritual qualities which inspired it, was told it was no longer wanted or needed when it came to matters of health.
However, Dr. Burkhardt stated that the division was mending. She felt that spirituality and health were coming together again. In her opinion, healing was about returning to who we are, and recognizing the spiritual to be our core.
Nursing theorist Jean Watson was on the panel as well. Dr. Watson, after earning a PhD in educational psychology and counseling, joined the faculty at the University of Colorado. As time went on though, she was discouraged because the nursing program was becoming specialized and medicalized in its view of humanity.
Watson’s work to correct this resulted in her “Human Caring Theory” and its Ten Caritas Processes that bring caring, love, and healing together. She felt that the significant cause of healing was love.
When the third panelist, Linda Kohler, supervisor of Christian Science Nursing Activities worldwide, suggested to the other panelists that they were promoting the theory of “love is a power, something required in every sickroom,” both responded, "Absolutely!"
Yes, years ago, when the nurse walked in my front door, I began to feel better. The complete healing came just after she left. Now I realize that the improvement took place, in part, because of this nurse's expectation of good, spirituality, and love.
The compassionate mental state of a nurse can calm a patient. The lessening of fear enables the patient to mentally turn from a mesmeric contemplation of the body and of physical suffering. Because of this mental movement, the pain ceases to dominate, and the patient’s freer thought can begin to accept strength and health.
I hadn’t recognized what a nurse brings to the healing perspective until I had experienced what a selfless, spiritually minded nurse could do. No, it wasn’t Anna Deavere Smith’s Nurse Jackie. In my case, it was a Christian Science nurse.
If you are not aware, Christian Science nurses provide skillful, non-medical physical care for those relying on prayer as a first choice for healing. This care includes bathing, dressing wounds, assistance with mobility, and feeding.
Yes, any nurse, medical or non-medical, can impact healing by an awareness of the patient’s spiritual needs.
So, give a nurse a hug today. But let’s not allow nurses to “corner the market” on compassion. You are I should be filling our hearts with love, joy, and an expectation of good. These valuable qualities promote harmony and health.
– Keith Wommack is a Syndicated Columnist, Christian Science practitioner and teacher, husband, and step-dad. He is a legislative liaison for spiritual healing & Christian Science in Texas. He has been described as a spiritual spur (since every horse needs a little nudge now and then). Keith’s syndicated columns originate at: http://texashealthblog.com/