forever devoted to those committed to my care

While talking on the phone to a patient’s family, they tell me that it makes them so happy knowing that I am there taking care of their loved one.

And in that moment, I am reminded of just one of the eleventy million reasons why I am lucky to have the best job ever.

Eleventy million?

Yes, in spite of my suspect math skills I know that isn’t a real number. But it should be as it represents a virtually infinite number of reasons why I love what I do. Every day there is something to remind me like hearing a parent express to you their trust and their gratitude.

It’s what I do and I love that I get to do what I do. It’s what I pledged to always do almost 25 years ago when I received my nursing degree, as I recited 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.

Composed in 1893 by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, it was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. While the words are dated, the meaning rings true today as I put on those scrubs, pick up my patient assignment each night and spend the next often exhausting 12 hours caring for tiny humans and their families.

Coincidentally this past week in Michigan, the Michigan House of Representatives, led by Speaker Jase Bolger just passed the bill, HB5958, that would allow discrimination to become sanction by the state. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, akin to one that made nationwide headlines in Arizona but was vetoed, appears to merely force the government to step aside if a person’s “deeply-held religious beliefs” mandate they act, or not act, in a certain manner. Although subject to legal interpretation, under the Religious Freedom law, a pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication. An emergency room physician or EMT could refuse service to a gay person in need of immediate treatment. A school teacher could refuse to mentor the children of a same-sex couple, and a DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to a person who is divorced.

Personally I share the frustration and outrage expressed by friends who identify themselves as LGBT over this legislative action. I doubt seriously they will seek out a church who preaches hate from the pulpit to preside over their wedding vows, or a ultra-conservative Christian bakery to make their wedding cake or do any other business transactions with those that openly expresses such hate. But imagine an openly LGBT person seeking emergency care in a hospital. Can a healthcare worker really refuse to provide emergency, life-saving care to them because it goes against their deeply held religious beliefs? Would a god actually condemn someone who has studied and pledged to provide care for all individuals needing it?

In 1950, The American Nurses’ Association adopted a Code for Professional Nurses that applies to all nurses, including those involved in patient care, administration, education and research.

Provision 1:
The nurse, in all professional relationships, practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and uniqueness of every individual, unrestricted by considerations of social or economic status, personal attributes, or the nature of health problems.

Provision 2:
The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, or community.

Provision 3:
The nurse promotes, advocates for, and strives to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient.

Provision 4:
The nurse is responsible and accountable for individual nursing practice and determines the appropriate delegation of tasks consistent with the nurse’s obligation to provide optimum patient care.

Provision 5:
The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to preserve integrity and safety, to maintain competence, and to continue personal and professional growth.

Provision 6:
The nurse participates in establishing, maintaining, and improving healthcare environments and conditions of employment conducive to the provision of quality healthcare and consistent with the values of the profession through individual and collective action.

Provision 7:
The nurse participates in the advancement of the profession through contributions to practice, education administration and knowledge development.

Provision 8:
The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public in promoting community, national, and international efforts to meet health needs.

Provision 9:
The profession of nursing, as represented by associations and other members, is responsible for articulating nursing values, for maintaining the integrity of the profession and its practice, and for shaping social policy.

As an American, I am thankful for the First Amendment affording me and all American citizens the right to religious freedom…praise god for that! As a person who mostly identifies as a Christian, I am compelled to live by the Greatest Commandment especially in loving others as I (should) love myself. As a Registered Nurse, I am equally compelled my vocation, my pledge and my code to provide the best of care to each and every tiny human who passes through the NICU where I practice, regardless of who their parents are…whether they be straight, gay, married, single, under-age, US citizen, immigrant (legal or illegal), homeless, addict, mentally ill or convict. A life is a life and always precious and worth preserving to the best of my abilities as a nurse. Discrimination of any kind has no place anywhere in this day but especially in an acute care setting where I do what I do. Shame on Michigan House Speaker Jace Bolger and the Michigan legislature as well as anyone who cloaks themselves in such a ridiculous, hateful, discriminatory law in t6he name of whomever they choose to worship!

Let us be anxious to do well, not for selfish praise but to honor and advance the cause, the work we have taken up. Let us value our training not as it makes us cleverer or superior to others, but inasmuch as it enables us to be more useful and helpful to our fellow creatures, the sick, who most want our help. Let it be our ambition to be good nurses, and never let us be ashamed of the name of ‘nurse’.

~Florence Nightingale

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