I was invited this spring to give the address at the pinning ceremony for the graduates of our nursing program at Huntington University. I chose to speak on the vocation of Christian nursing as “vulnerable compassion in the name of Christ.” I am posting the address in full and would enjoy some feedback and discussion.
Nurses are present with us in many of those times that are most important, memorable, and vulnerable. When our children are born, nurses are often close at hand. When we or someone we love becomes ill, nurses are present throughout our diagnosis and treatment. And when our lives draw to a close, they do so many times in the close proximity of a nurse.
However, to say that nurses are present says nothing of the nature of their presence. Is it possible that one’s presence could be just as beneficial as harmful? We know this is true. And we also know that the proficiency or skill of one’s performance of tasks does not fully describe the shape and character of their presence. We know the truth of this even if we are unsure how to describe it. We are aware intuitively that the presence of one human being with another transcends the fact that we happen to share the same physical space. The nature and character of one human being’s presence with another is within our perception but beyond our naming: one evokes unease, another comfort; one evokes manipulation, another, compassion; one catalyzes despair, and another hope.
The potential of a nurse to evoke such different emotional, psychological, and physical states might illustrate the sacredness of human relationship. There is no word for the experience of holding one’s child in the moments after their birth or overhearing an argument at the table next to us. This is no less true for naming the unique character of a nurse’s presence and the affect it has upon those who share it. This is certainly a glorious mystery. Continue reading