Nursing the soul

May 23, 2012 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | Young Voices Co-Editor

It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. It takes someone who will stay up all night rocking and singing to a screaming child. Someone like Carly Penner who will respect diverse faith traditions and care for a child while their mother goes to say her prayers five times a day as required by the Islamic faith. Someone who will go out of their way to care for a patient, even if they have different ideas of care based on culture.

For Penner, a nurse at Winnipeg Children’s Hospital who attends Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg, her faith allows her to care for children and their families with her whole heart.

“Jesus shows his love to my patients and their families through the care that I give,” she said. Even with patients who come from different faith traditions, showing love and respect allows a trusting relationship to grow.

“If you have a trusting relationship, they can open up to you about questions they have. Trust is a really big part of nursing,” Penner said. “This is definitely a part of my faith.”

Erin Braun, a nurse in the Pediatrics inpatient unit at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre who attends Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford, has been told that her faith is evident in her work.

“Families say, ‘I can just tell you’re a Christian,’” Braun said. And she can often see her faith intertwining with her work because she sees families at low points in their lives and finds ways to support them.

“Their child is sick and they have been admitted to continuing care. They often come up to our unit from the Emergency department where their child has possibly been poked, scanned, prodded, x-rayed, and tested for diagnoses; it’s a difficult time.”

“I find that throughout my work day, my faith is intertwined in my work. A quiet prayer for a stressed family, or a discussion with a family about my upbringing when they ask,” Braun said.

At the same time, Braun does her best to provide culturally sensitive nursing care in a city that is very culturally diverse.

“Ultimately in my experience and education, respect for religious differences and individualized nursing care is most important and has been the best way for me to bridge different faith gaps,” she said.

National Nursing Week took place May 7-13. In conjunction with this, Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. held a Faith and Nursing Symposium featuring speakers and panellists from diverse work positions and faith traditions. Focusing on the interface between religion, spirituality, nursing, and health care ethics, the symposium featured a panel on May 11 called, “A MultiFaith Dialogue on Diversity and Health Care Services.” Panellists included Jas Cheema of Fraser Health, Janice Clarke of the University of Worchester (UK), Rani Srivastava of the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto, and Evelyn Voyageur of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada.

Anna Douglas, a second year nursing student at TWU who attended the symposium, said that spiritual care is not something that’s technical and out of a nurse’s reach. “Attending this symposium has helped me understand the need for spirituality in order to provide proper, holistic, quality care.” Douglas said.

According to Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham, Director of the Master of Nursing program at TWU, “It’s inevitable to bring faith into work. We’re trying to make it intentional and more mindful.”

“Our president [at TWU] says we’re here to meet the deepest and most pressing needs. In nursing, we face this all of the time. So we need to tap into resources in order to better meet these needs,” she said.

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