We have a lot of Registered Nurses in my family (and a few physicians as well).
My mother was an RN. My sister-in-law Marilyn, is an RN (and is certified in Palliative Care nursing). My cousin Lynn is an RN (and is a Nurse Practitioner as well). My Aunt Libby is an RN.
All of these women have multiple degrees and a great deal of theoretical and practical training. They are all highly skilled in their fields and take courses every year to maintain their licenses and keep up with the latest in medicine.
I know we think that all nurses are supposed to behave in such a way, and physicians as well. However, in my work as a rabbi and pastoral caregiver, I observe many instances when some health-care workers are so busy that they are harried, insensitive or seemingly uncaring.
Sometimes they forget that the “Leukemia in Bed #2” is not an illness, but a living, breathing human being, with thoughts, feelings and emotions. That person has an entire life that exists BEYOND the hospital and is much larger than his or her illness.
And when someone is ill and in the hospital, it affects their family as well. Treating the patient includes bringing their family into the process.
Our Jewish tradition places high value on the mitzvah (commandment) of g’mi’lut hasadim – doing acts of lovingkindness. We are taught that the act of caring for others is fundamental to how we live out our relationship with others in our lives, both personally and professionally.
Therefore, if someone is sick in the hospital, it’s incumbent upon both the medical professionals, as well as the rest of us, to care for that person and their family physically, spiritually and emotionally.
Nurses are generally “on the front lines” of care for those in the hospital. They are the ones who provide most of the patient care and don’t receive enough credit for their hard work and efforts. Additionally, they often get the jobs that are not always pleasant and they are not always thanked for their efforts.
A few nights ago, I sat with my congregant at the hospital as her mother was in the final hours of her life. The nursing staff could not have been more incredible. They were so completely compassionate, sensitive and caring.
The nurses facilitated an end-of-life experience that was as life-affirming, merciful and tender-hearted as was possible. They helped take a difficult and painful experience and made it less so, by their actions, deeds, words and their very presence.
Truly these nurses are a great gift to this hospital, the patients and their families. We are so blessed to have them in our midst.
These nurses – and so many others – exemplify the Jewish concept of g’m’lut hasadim – doing acts of lovingkindness.
To all of you, I say: Todah rabbah – Thank you so very much!