God was present with me in my troubled heart, in my feelings of shame and sadness, and my struggle to make sense of what I had seen. I sat at the nurses' station and recorded my observations while they were still fresh. I felt battered and breathless, tossed by an angry sea and dumped on the shore.
Even in the roughest times Jesus can calm the storm as he did in Mt. 8:27 "…even the winds and the sea obey him". I had felt as if I was sinking but I only needed to keep my eyes on Jesus and he would rescue me, just as he rescued Peter in Mt. 14:30. It is a matter of faith.
Some Christian nurses remember more positive experiences.
"Something that immediately comes to mind relates to a situation where I was supervising students in clinical practice. One of them said at the end of our first day, words to the effect that he was unhappy in that placement because so many people were terminally ill. We talked about the place of medicine and nursing, the meaning of holistic care and what nurses could do to relieve suffering. He told me that he was a Christian and we talked about our faith and how that affected our caring - what he could do by seeming to do nothing but just being there - the art of presencing.
On the next day in the unit he stated that he had been able to spend a lot of time just listening to a patient who was also a Christian and just wanted to talk. He felt that he had learned so much from her. He was very upset to hear that she had died before our next day in the unit, but after discussing his experiences with him he came to realize that his presence had been very valuable to both of them. More than anything we both realized what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to 'make a difference to the day', in this case the last day on this earth of someone before she entered heaven.
There are many stories but this one sticks in my mind because the experience. I believe, made a difference to this student's understanding, a small but significant part in the process of his development as a nurse".
Another nurse shares her experience in a clinical setting.
"There are a number of occasions in which my experiences as a Christian nurse have been challenging, both positive and some negative. One positive experience was in caring for an American lady who had only been in Australia for one week before she became critically ill from an infection, ventilated, dialysed, and close to death. Her family came over from the U.S.A., as it was probable that she would die.
With the prayers of family and friends she survived, but in the process had to have bilateral below knee amputations. Also a number of her fingers fell off due to gangrene. I became very close to both her and her husband and it was a great way to share God's goodness with them.
On one of my overseas trips I visited them, and even through her disability she remains positive in spite of difficulties even walking. God is good isn't he."
A third nurse reflects on her experience of answered prayer.
"I spent ten years working out in the bush in some of the remote and isolated areas in outback Australia. The people out there are just as rough and nuggetty as the landscape. The natural beauty and harshness of the land is particularly important to consider as one deals with the health problems in the bush. I am always inspired by the beauty of God's creation and how people survive the elements of nature.
It is always good to incorporate the land, weather and local conditions when dealing with people and how life really is for them. The context of their lives can have a huge impact on their future.
Currently the serious drought is affecting individuals and the community, as well as the environment itself. Many health problems arise due to the stresses and toughness of feeding and watering stock, planting crops.
People really like to talk about the drought, and it helps to see things from their perspective. I often tell patients and staff I am praying for rain, or that God has answered my prayers by sending some recent rain.
As a flight nurse I spend a lot of time flying at night. I love observing the night skies and especially from the air. Again it helps me to feel how small we really are in God's big world, and yet he has a specific plan for our lives.
I often pray for safety travelling. If we have been flying in particularly bad weather and made if safely I will tell the pilot. It makes for some stimulating conversation. I feel extremely close to God at 29,000 feet on a dark night!
Another nurse, who works in aged care, shared this poem that her priest found amongst his mother's things after she died. She said it helped her in her practice.
Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and shaking hand.
Blessed who know my ears today
Must strain to catch the things the say.
Blessed are they who seem to know
My eyes are dim and my mind is slow.
Blessed are they who looked away
When tea spilled on the cloth that day.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile
Who stopped to chat for a little while.
Blessed are they who never say
"You've told that story twice today".
Blessed are they who make it known
That I'm loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who ease the days
Of my journey home in loving ways.
There have been many changes in nursing since the hospital based programmes initiated by Florence Nightingale. Until twenty years ago the training of Registered Nurses took place in large teaching hospitals, but then it changed to the tertiary sector and moved to the universities. Early courses were mainly theory with some clinical practice. This left nurses struggling once they graduated and were placed in wards. Most programmes have improved the balance of theoretical and practical nursing, followed by a supervised new graduate programme once the nurses start in the wards. This has reduced stress and helped with the retention rate of new graduates.
One of the drawbacks of the close of hospital-based training is the loss of camaraderie and friendship amongst the nurses as they shared communal living in the nurses' home. This closeness gave many opportunities for nurses to encourage and support each other, debriefing after difficult experiences on the wards and celebrating the enjoyable times.