Spring Has Sprung…

Spring has a way of sneaking up on us – it is only with the arrival of the crocus’s first green shoots that we realize winter has faded and it is time to get excited about the many rites of spring. I don’t know what the weather’s like where you live, but I can say for sure it has been cold where I live so far this spring. But it is warming up and the sunny skies and warmer days are giving way to the excitement of many spring activities. This weekend is the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, a true spring holiday in my state. Then beginning on Monday is another one of those rites of spring we always look forward to, “National Nurses Week” (May 6-12).

National Nurses Week

A little about the history of the holiday:

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  • National Nurses Weeks begins each year on May 6th and ends on May 12th Florence Nightingales birthday.
  • In 1953, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare proposed that the – President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaim a “Nurses Day”, although Eisenhower did not sign it.
  • Other attempts at establishing a day recognizing nurses were not successful until – President Richard Nixon proclaimed National Nurses Week in 1974.
  • In 1982, a joint commission resolution designated May 6 as “National Recognition Day for Nurses”.
  • In 1990 the American Nurses Association (ANA) expanded the recognition of “National Nurses Week” (May 6-12) to a week-long celebration to accommodate the varied schedules of America’s nurses.
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The nursing profession has been supported and promoted by the ANA since 1896. The ANA encourages “National Nurses Week” recognition programs through state and district nurses associations, specialty nursing organizations, educational facilities, independent healthcare companies and healthcare institutions.

Congregational Nursing Foundations Course Reflections

This past weekend I had the privilege of helping to facilitate a Congregational Nursing Foundations Course at the Jesuit Spiritual Center in Milford, OH, where Aly Breisch was the instructor. This class was collaboration between the Health Ministries Programs of Good Samaritan Hospital, Dayton, OH (Sharon Becker is the coordinator) and St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Northern Kentucky (my employer). The program had 21 attendees, from varying stages in their Health Ministry, practices, geographical locations, practice backgrounds and populations served.

This was an amazing group of nurses! They came together to listen, learn and share . They invested their time and talent to be changed and transformed by gaining insight into the faith health links . They gathered to experience the rich potential and the challenges of health ministry. They worked on practical approaches and demonstrated a range of ways to express this ministry. They were challenged to see when the resources of health and ministry are joined – using the strength of each – that there are abundant opportunities to promote health. This group of nurses worshiped, prayed, sang and allowed themselves to be forever changed both personally and professionally by this course.

One assignment was for each of them to lead a morning, afternoon or evening reflection. They worked in groups to develop these very rich and moving reflections. One reflection was perfect for “National Nurses Week” and also touched me deeply. So with the group’s permission, I want to share their reflection from a book by Sr. Mary Elizabeth O’Brien. I also want to thank her for so generously giving me permission to share her work with you.

A Prayerful Commitment

Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3

In her book, Prayer in Nursing: The Spirituality of Compassionate Caregiving”, Sr. O’Brien notes that in 1893 Lystra Gretter, director of the Farrand School of Nursing in Detroit, wrote a nursing pledge dedicated to Florence Nightingale which became the accepted oath of the nursing profession. The oath still stands today and the central concepts derived from the Nightingale Pledge include core components of nursing: commitment, community, spirituality, faithfulness, ethics, altruism, confidentiality, loyalty and devotion for caring for the sick.

O’Brien associates these components and a scriptural passage to each of the phrases of the pledge:

COMMITMENT “I solemnly pledge myself before God”

“This is what the LORD has commanded, when a man makes a vow to the Lord or binds himself under oath to a pledge… he shall not violate his word, but must fulfill exactly the promise he has uttered.” Numbers 30:3

COMMUNITY “And in the presence of this assembly”

“Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful” Psalm 149:1

SPIRITUALITY “To pass my life in purity”

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

FAITHFULNESS “And to practice my profession faithfully”

“I give you this command serve God faithfully and do what is right before him” Tobit14:9

ETHICS “I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug”

“Abstain from every kind of evil.” I Thessalonians 3:22

ALTRUISM “I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession”

“This is why I have raised you up, to show my power through you that my name may be proclaimed throughout all the earth.” Romans 9:1

CONFIDENTIALITY “And will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling”

“He who betrays a secret cannot be trusted; he will never find an intimate friend. Cherish your friend, keep faith with him; but if you betray his confidence, follow him not; For as an enemy might kill a man, you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.” Sirach 27:16-18

LOYALTY “With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work”

“Of kindness and judgment I will sing to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.” Psalm 101:1

DEVOTION to CARING FOR THE SICK “And devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care”

“Those who have believed in God (should) be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others.”Titus 3:8

The Pledge

I encourage every nurse to consider taking this opportunity to rededicate yourself to what has called you to this vocation by reciting the Nightingale Pledge:

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

May you all have a Blessed National Nurses Week!

Marlene Feagan
President
Health Ministries Association, Inc.

Reference: O’Brien, Mary Elizabeth. Prayer in Nursing: The Spirituality of Compassionate Caregiving 2003, pages 26-39.