Standing on Holy Ground: Nurses, Suffering, and Values

Teaching students is always a pleasure and a privilege. Yet, sometimes the stories that have been the most powerful for me seem to have no impact on them. Today I read them an excerpt from Mary Elizabeth O’Brien’s book, Spirituality in Nursing. Sr. Macrina advised,

“if you should ever hear God speaking to you from a burning bush, and it happens more often than most of us realize, take off your shoes for the ground on which you stand is holy”. How appropriate, it seems to envision practicing nurses, who must come together with their patients in caring and compassion, as standing on holy ground. God frequently speaks to us from a burning bush, in the fretful whimper of a feverish child, in the anxious questions of a preoperative surgical patient, and in the frail moans of a fragile elder. If we take off our shoes, we will be able to realize that the place where we stand is holy ground; we will respond to our patients as we would wish to respond to God in the burning bush.”

Book_of_Exodus_Chapter_4-5_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media) (1)I believe we should all take off our shoes and experience what is holy in our professions and our human relationships. What are we called to do and what is preventing us from doing it? We should take off our shoes of bias, our shoes of fear, and our shoes of judgment and help alleviate unnecessary suffering. Only then will we be able to feel what is holy and just. Only then can we answer the questions that examine our values:
Who am I? Who am I to become? How do I get there?

Adult Health: Nursing Ethical and Legal Issues

Art by: “Book of Exodus Chapter 4-5 (Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media)” by Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing

6 thoughts on “Standing on Holy Ground: Nurses, Suffering, and Values

  1. Stephanie Kuhn

    Dr. Lavin, I personally loved this story when you shared it in our class. I found it such a beautiful analogy of the fragile nature of life, death, and a person’s dignity that is in our hands when we care for patients. I was drawn to nursing initially through the experience of being pregnant and giving birth to my two children. I then became very involved in assisting women in the hospital as a birth doula, and practicing as a midwife’s assistant doing homebirths. The “holiness” of caring for someone in such a powerful, yet vulnerable time in their lives forever imprinted on me that I wanted to be a nurse. When people are trusting you, and reaching for you to care for them in their weaknesses and vulnerabilities it is indeed “holy”. The environment cannot be tainted with personal opinions, it must be one of respect and support. I for one, completely grasped the message your story was trying to convey. Thank you for sharing it! I am inspired by what you teach us and grateful for the standards by which you are trying to shape us into new nurses. I also remember what you said on the first day of orientation about representing yourself professionally, and how building your professional reputation starts even in nursing school. Your words made an impact on me. I just noticed your blog and saw that you might have felt that none, or few of us received your message. So I thought you should know that some did.

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