Called to Care
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Called to Care

A Christian Vision for Nursing

Judith Allen Shelly, Arlene B. Miller, Kimberly H. Fenstermacher

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Called to Care

A Christian Vision for Nursing

Judith Allen Shelly, Arlene B. Miller, Kimberly H. Fenstermacher

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About This Book

Nursing is a vocation: a calling from God to care for others. The role of the nurse originally grew out of a holistic Christian understanding of humans as created in the image of God. Yet as nursing and healthcare continue to change, the effects have proven disorienting to many. Now more than ever, we need nurses who are committed both to a solid understanding of their profession and to caring well for patients and their families.For over twenty years, Called to Care has served as a unique and essential resource for nurses. In this third edition Judith Allen Shelly and Arlene B. Miller, now joined by coauthor Kimberly H. Fenstermacher, present a definition for nursing based on a historically and theologically grounded vision of the nurse's call: Nursing is a ministry of compassionate and restorative care for the whole person, in response to God's grace, which aims to promote and foster optimum health (shalom) and bring comfort in suffering and death for anyone in need.Focusing on the features of the nursing metaparadigm—person, health, environment, and nursing—they provide a framework for understanding how the Christian faith relates to the many aspects of a nurse's work, from theory to everyday practice.This new edition of Called to Care is thoroughly revised for today's nurses, including updated examples and new content on topics such as cultural competency, palliative care, and the current state of healthcare and nursing education. Each chapter features learning objectives, discussion questions, case studies, and theological reflections from Scripture to help readers engage and apply the content. For educators, students, and practitioners throughout the field of nursing, this classic text continues to provide clarity and wisdom for living out their calling.

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IVP Academic




To examine the relationship between Christian faith and nursing
After reading this chapter and completing the exercises, you should be able to:
  1. 1. Describe the historical relationship between Christian faith and nursing
  2. 2. Define Christian nursing
  3. 3. Identify your motivation for being a nurse
  4. 4. Describe the relationship between personal faith and nursing care
paradigm, story, narrative, history
JOHN, AN EMERGENCY-DEPARTMENT STAFF NURSE in an inner-city hospital, was on his way to work when the car in front of him suddenly swerved off the road into a tree. He called 911 and stopped to help. John found an unconscious man of about thirty lying face down on the road, bleeding heavily from a leg wound. He felt a weak pulse and checked his airway. The man’s arms showed fresh track marks suggesting recent IV drug use. A syringe lay beside him. John suspected that the man had probably overdosed on heroin. He had no gloves with him and did not carry Narcan, but when help seemed long in coming, he began to care for the man’s wounds, applying pressure on the leg wound. Afterward, John’s colleagues said he had been irresponsible. But all John could think about was, If Jesus encountered this accident, would he risk touching the wounds of a man, possibly Hepatitis C positive, and love him?
In another situation, Rosene, a new nurse in an extended-care facility, felt repulsed at first by what she viewed as the “concentrated assemblage of helpless humanity” who surrounded her. But then she prayerfully determined that she would get to know her patients and see the image of God in each one. She gradually began to enjoy the people in her care.1
Rick, a nurse caring for Covid-19 patients, is also a deacon in his church, but he has chosen to isolate himself from his church and family to protect them from the virus. “My ministry right now is to my patients and colleagues,” he explains.
Joy, an American nurse living in Turkey, saw starving babies in an orphanage and organized an ongoing project to provide them with nourishing formula.2
A common thread weaves throughout these stories, which are based on real nurses’ accounts. Each of the nurses responded from a theological commitment. They saw those in their care as valuable human beings who reflected the image of God. They saw hope in the midst of hopeless situations. They viewed health as a holistic concept that radiates from a vital relationship with God and includes physical integrity, emotional stability, and participation in the life of the community. They were motivated by the desire to share the love of God, which each had personally experienced, and saw nursing as compassionate service to God and their neighbors. In sum, each of these nurses practiced nursing from a Christian worldview—the framework of ideas and beliefs through which a Christian interprets the world and interacts with it.
How does what we believe about God and the world affect the nursing care we provide? Is there a relationship between the way a society understands the nature of God and the type of health care that develops in that society? These are important questions for us to consider. We assert that there is a direct relationship between what a person believes about God and how nursing care is delivered. If the faith perspective changes, health care practices will follow in the same direction. In fact, we are living in the midst of such changes in North America right now.
From its earliest beginnings, the profession of nursing developed out of a Christian worldview. It is important to see that the changes we are experiencing in health care stem from a growing paradigm shift in our culture. By paradigm shift, we mean that the worldview, or the way a person or culture sees human beings, and the world around us, is changing. A paradigm is “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations, and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated.”3 A paradigm shift is a fundamental change in the basic concepts and practices of a discipline.4 To fully appreciate this shift, we must first look at who we are and how nursing developed in the first place.


With the rise of empiricism, in which all knowledge is derived from experimentation and sense experience, science blossomed and gave rise to high hopes for conquering drudgery and disease. Optimism ran high in mid–nineteenth century England. Progress toward better things in all areas of life was possible. And thus the positivist worldview that dominated the scientific community undoubtedly influenced Florence Nightingale as she went to Crimea in 1854.5 By applying good principles of sanitation, she made a major difference in the death rate of British soldiers (from 42 percent to 2 percent). She also used statistics to successfully influence change in the care of wounded British soldiers.6 But the spectacular success of science and high hopes of the philosophers had an unsettling effect on the common people—and that troubled Nightingale. She wrote to her friend John Stuart Mill, “Many years ago, I had a large and very curious acquaintance among the artisans of the North of England and of London. I learned that they were without any religion whatever—though diligently seeking after one, principally in Comte and his school. Any return to what is called Christianity appeared impossible.”7
Florence Nightingale seemed most concerned about the ethical implications of religious belief. In her book Suggestions for Thought she attempted to develop an alternative concept of God that would appeal to the disenchanted “artisans” (merchants and craftsmen) so they would have a basis for morality. Her theology was far from orthodox—she dismissed the incarnation, the Trinity, and the atonement as “abortions of a comprehension of God’s plan.”8 However, she considered herself a Christian and her work a “call from God.”9
The twentieth century brought another set of philosophical and theological influences into nursing. The progressive optimism prior to World War I gave way to the realities of violence, war, and human evil. New philosophers reacted against...

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