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Reality Unscripted
Spiritually Caring for Your Patient

The patient who had just had a D&C after a miscarriage. The little girl dying after a failed liver transplant. The man headed to surgery for a colon resection to treat his cancer. The wife whose husband just died. The father who called to tell us his daughter had just been diagnosed with cancer.

These are all people who I have prayed for, prayed with, or prayed over. Of course, there have been many more. Some I've forgotten, some I never could. Some who knew I was doing it, some who never will.

For me, prayer is essential. It's the act of inviting God into a situation--whatever it is.

I work with a doctor who prays for the patients on her schedule each day. Sometimes nurses join her. I know of another doctor who actually has a special room designated for prayer in her clinic. How would you feel if you were her patient and knew her interaction with you and all her decisions regarding your care had been prayed over?

Of course not everyone feels the way I do about prayer. It might even be offensive to some. That's okay. But I earnestly believe most people have some sort of spiritual inclination. A patient has never become offended when I've said I'd be praying for him. I think we all find it comforting to think God might actually care about our circumstances and take the time to intercede for us.

I heard a story the other day of an anesthesiologist who ministered to a little boy and his family in a most unlikely way. The boy, who is in a losing battle with cancer, was having yet another procedure done. After it was over, but while he was still unconscious, the doctor decided to bathe him and trim his nails. Something he was in too much pain to have done while awake. She told the mom that, as a mother herself, she felt it was one small thing she could do to help.

I have this vision in my head of this kind doctor washing off caked blood and grime, all the while asking God to care for this little boy.

It's one of those amazing moments we get to be a part of in the health care profession. Meeting people in there rawest form. Reaching out to them in whatever way we can. Ministering to them as we meet their medical needs. Often these are holy moments. I cherish several.

Do you have any moments like that? Times when you've taken care of a patient spiritually and not just physically? Times when you felt used by God? Times when you've realized nursing is so much more than you ever dreamed?

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12 Responses to “Spiritually Caring for Your Patient”

  1. chaedden Says:

    Every time I have a Baby Die while I am caring for them or for there mother. I pray for that infant. I think that it is more for me that I pray for them because then I know my Heavenly Father did know that some one cared for this child. Some one did love that baby for how ever short of a time.

  2. Becca Says:

    I also pray for my patients, most of the time they never know, but it is part of how I give wholistic care. I invite God to go where I can’t and do what I can’t to heal or comfort them. It also reminds we that whatever I do is done to the glory of God and I better be giving my best and serving with integrety. It also helps me see the bigger picture and helps deal with difficult families or other staff. When there is opportunity I share this with them, or the family for comfort. I do my best to give a realistic picture and speak truth, but sometimes feel like it is essential to give hope in a loving God as well.

  3. steubified Says:

    I personally believe in Martha Roger’s nursing theory about how we are all beings with energy fields and our interactions are part of our energy interacting with one another. If you think of it that way, then it makes sense for you to care for your patient spiritually (in whatever sense that means; I don’t use prayer, but more “good vibes”). Some people might think that’s BS, but it works. You can tell right away if someone is tense or angry just by the mood they bring in the room. If you walk into the room and have a gentle or caring “aura”–if you will–your patient will notice and feel more at ease. This makes it easier to “minister” to them whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

  4. Flannery Says:

    My parents have a plaque next to their front door that says: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” I hold to that in my nursing–whether I am asked by a patient to pray for them, or whether or not it is ever spoken, I know that in asking the Lord to work in their lives where I cannot, I am offering myself as conduit for more love and healing than I could ever offer. My God has more power and ability to effect my patients than all of the doctors in the world. I am a student nurse, and also work as a CNA in a nursing home. Spiritual care, and praying for my patients and coworkers is, in my opinion, more valuable than anything I could ever do for them physically or emotionally. I do attempt to make it as obvious as possible that I am someone they can come talk to at any time, and I will listen with a caring heart. I also make sure that whatever I do is rooted and grounded in the Love of God and that I pray for every person I come in contact with (yes, especially the completely obnoxious family members who just want to find something to be righteously outraged about). I value them because they are made in the image of God, and love them because He loved me first. This is not always–or usually–easy, but it is essential, in order to keep the kind of compassionate heart attitude that I desire to be at the center of my nursing care.

  5. aimee Says:

    I loved what Becca said.
    I don’t see how we can, as nurses who strive for evidence-based practice, just treat our patient’s body.
    Humans are souls with bodies (as C.S.Lewis said), not bodies with a soul. We are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual beings – and every aspect is affected by a departure from wellness.
    But, just as Becca said, even when expressed spiritual attention is unwanted, we have the option (or responsibility) to care for that part of the patient privately, in a manner that does not give offense.
    I believe in this way we care for our “whole” patient; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
    God is “the God of all flesh” (even unacknowledged) and nothing about our patient’s care is “too hard” for Him. (Jr32:27)

  6. Cece Grindel Says:

    “Praying with” and “praying for” patients and families are two different things. Praying for patients and families is in our personal domain with praying with patients occurs in the context of our professional domain. Like many who have responded, I often pray for patients, families, friends, students without their knowledge. In the professional domain, nurses must have “permission” to pray with patients and families. Some people are very private regarding their spiritual practices and choose not to pray with others in a public place. Others are open to and comforted by the act of praying with others. One responsibility that is clearly in the domain of nursing is to offer patients and families assistance in connecting with the patient’s spiritual adviser, particularly in very difficult situations. Patients may choose to accept that assistance or they may not need/want to do so. And in our very diverse world nurses must address the topic with care. As there is diversity in race/ethnicity, there is diversity in spiritual affiliations. An awareness of this diversity is important as nurses offer assistance to others.

  7. Amira Says:

    When “Health” is perceived by & believed to be a blessing from God among patients and their families.When illness and subsequent pain is believed to be reducing sins of earthy life for better heavenly after life.When Patience is a highly valued virtue & when death is believed to be the end of every living creature.Nurse’ efforts should focus on reminding them with what they belief in and pray she can provide the best conscientious care within a health care system that is not all the time of the quality they & her pray for .Bless u all

  8. Pam Says:

    Your story was so inspirational. I’m not an RN yet but in the pre-req process. God is the reason why I want to be a nurse. When people are in their rawest form is when they are open for someone to come and plant and seed of God’s love, and mercy. We just need to represent Him the way he really is! He really is good all the time!

  9. Mr Ian Says:

    Not wanting to offend God – as she seems a reasonable kind of woman – and not in any way wanting to mix up the differences between “spirituality” (good thing IMO) and “religion” (hmm.. not so good thing IMO) – I think the spirituality of human-ness in a much wider context is missing and, despite my non-religious views – I think it’s good some people (who also happen to be nurses) remember to keep the spirit alive.
    But spirituality does not even have to be religious – as steubified says – it’s a ‘way of being’ that makes the difference and nurses should be doing it every day.
    There was an interesting UK poll done where patients noticed nurses who smiled or didn’t smile and seemingly judged their ability on this alone – not far wrong because it’s how we interact with out patients that makes us Nurses and not cattle handlers.
    I’ve prayed for a patient who asked for it.
    I’m not religious.

  10. Wendy Says:

    I have a blog I keep with moments just like this…it is very cathartic and I love remembering my purpose. The two most recent blogs pertain to this very subject.

  11. Newbie Student Says:

    Years ago, my sister, a good student, talented equestrian and all around good kid, was struck by lighting and taken to the Cardiac ICU at a DC hospital. A very well meaning minister offered to come in and pray with our family. We were reluctant… shell shocked and still unsure if my sister would live or die, but we did not want to be rude to the minister. I remember so vividly how angry and upset my parents and I were when the minister–a complete and total stranger who knew NOTHING about my sister– said that God wanted to help get my sister on the right path. He had no clue what path she was on and should not have even alluded to the fact that being struck by lighting, having her heart stop, and losing the supply of oxygen to her brain was anything other than a tragic, tragic accident.

    I know his intent was to soothe and comfort my family, instead he angered us and showed his ignorance.

    As a new nursing student and someone who has always considered faith a very, very personal, private matter, I offer this story as an example of what can go wrong if prayer is used without knowledge of a patient or his/her individual situation.

  12. Brenda Sutter Says:

    I too always pray for my patients.

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