Most homes had regular meeting groups for Christian nurses, with opportunities for guest speakers prayer, and sharing. It was wonderful to be able to share what God was doing in our lives and in our work. Bibliography
Today that opportunity exists through the work of Nurses Christian Fellowship, which has small groups meeting in members' homes, seminars, workshops, conferences and other professional activities for Christian nurses and their colleagues. NCF encourages Christian nurses to be aware of God's presence with them in their practice and to share their faith with other nurses. "The purposes in the human mind are like deep water, but the intelligent will draw them out" (Prov. 20:5). NCF has been in existence for over eighty years and continues to grow and develop. It provides a forum in Australia and throughout the world in which Christian nurses can explore their faith and encourage one another.
Another way to explore and enhance nursing practice is through reflection. One definition of reflection suggests "a thought occurring in consideration or meditation" (Macquarie Dictionary, 1981). One of the benefits of tertiary nursing is the development of various philosophical approaches to nursing practice, many of which have stemmed from thinking and reflecting on what it is that nurses do. Annette Street, an Australian writes, takes this process a step further by encouraging written journal entries on which to reflect. "The journalling process contains the potentiality to transform the individual's values and actions, to transform the chaos confronted in the situation and to contribute to the individual and sociocultural understandings relevant to the area of professional practice" (1990, p.1). Journalling is as individual as the person who writes it. Street also adds helpful prompts to assist with the writing.
Where was I?
What could I see, smell, hear and feel in the setting?
Who was I involved with?
Who else was in the range of interaction?
Content of the Activity:
What was I doing?
Account of the Interaction:
What did I do/say first?
What was I thinking and feeling at the time?
What happened next etc.?
This process can be challenging, comforting or confronting, depending on the episode on which we choose to reflect and our honesty in writing. Once the event, and our part in it, is written down we are able to reflect on what happened and where God was while it was happening.
At one of the NCF conferences I heard about Clinical Pastoral Education and have now completed three units. One of the strengths of the programme is that of recording, as closely as possible, conversations with the patients, for the purpose of discovering what was going on during the conversation. These are called 'verbatims' as they follow the conversation as closely a possible. Initially I found this difficult, but gradually improved and recognised it as an invaluable tool for reflective learning.
Back on the wards, supervising nursing students, I sat and talked to one of the patients, a retired missionary who had spent many years in Africa with her husband who was a minister. As I listened to her story my nursing and pastoral care skills collided. She spoke of her physical recovery from an undiagnosed condition. She had been close to death for a number of weeks, but miraculously survived. I sat quietly and listened, aware of God's presence with us. As she spoke of her physical healing and progress her language revealed a deeper healing and hope for the future, both in this world and the world to come.
She spoke about the renewal of her body, new life, and plans to move to a more accessible unit without steps in their retirement village. Her feelings of God's provision for her material needs and his abundance in refurnishing the new unit revealed a deeper, unspoken appreciation of his ongoing care of her whole person, and a future in one of the many rooms he has gone ahead to prepare for her.
She shared her progress with activities of daily living from 'nappies' to pans to being able to take herself to the toilet independently. The rehabilitation had improved her perception of her body image and she rejoiced in her progress and God's goodness.
"Quite a few of the nurses are believers' she told me, and then reminisced about Hindus and Muslims in Africa with whom they had shared the gospel. Many of them were very kind to her and her husband. "We are all created in God's image. He is a God of creation." She saw God's reflection in all people, those who belong to him and those who do not yet belong to him. He is creator God. He is able to create new physical bodies as he has for her, and will give us a new, imperishable body when he calls us to himself.
I had a feeling of moving forward, swimming strongly, and eager for more. It is exciting to see what the Lord will do when we entrust our future to him.
The psalmist encourages us to meditate on the law of the Lord and promises blessing. "They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper" (Ps. 1:3). The streams are full and abundant, running fresh and clean, inviting us to dive in and swim. There is water and there is life.
Kitwood, T. (1997) Dementia Reconsidered: The person comes first. Open University Press. Buckingham.
Miller, B. (1947, 1975) Florence Nightingale, The Lady of the Lamp. Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Street, A. (1990) The Practice of Journaling for Teachers, Nurses, Adult Educators and Other Professionals. Deakin University Press. Australia.
The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version (1989) Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville.
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