I’m a Nurse…I’m Not Allowed to Pray With a Patient!

The surgeon, Nurse Practitioner, and I walked into her room.

The patient had just undergone major surgery for some various injuries she sustained in a car crash the night before.

To us, this was just a normal day but to her, it was a fight for her life.

My job was to accompany the surgeon and his nurse practitioner to the patient’s rooms during their rounds and assist the surgeon with any pertinent information I had, if asked, and anticipate and communicate needs that arise to nursing staff caring for that patient.

We, healthcare providers, group patients according to their injuries, age, accompanying illnesses or diseases, and so on.

This patient was still in the ICU but she was very stable, meaning, she was breathing on her own without the assistance of a machine, she was able to communicate with us showing no signs of neurological injury, and her vital signs, lab work, and other tests were stable.

On an average day, this visit to the patient’s bedside should be a quick in and out.  Perform a quick assessment, answer some questions, and move onto the next patient; however, this wasn’t an average visit.

This situation changed my life forever……

This little lady was lucky she had made it through so far and she knew it.  She listened quietly as the doctor assessed her and discussed with her what she could expect in the upcoming days and weeks.  Close monitoring, pain, medications, further testing, and eventually rehab.

As soon as the doctor finished up, the patient grabbed his hand and asked him if he would pray for her.

Nervously with a smile, he slowly backed away from the bed while mumbling something under his breath that may have been an acknowledgement that he would pray for her.

The patient quickly moved her gaze to the nurse practitioner that accompanied him.  It was as if she was desperately saying, “Thank you for saving my life, but I know I’m not out of the woods and I need to know that you are calling on the direction of our Lord for guidance in caring for me”.

Nervously, she smiled sincerely at the patient and confirmed that she would say a prayer for her as she quickly ran to catch up with the surgeon walking out of the room to see the next patient.

So many thoughts raced through my head.

“Should I offer to pray for her? If I stopped to pray with her would I get in trouble? If I pray with her I won’t be available to round on the next patient. I grew up Lutheran and we don’t pray out loud! Maybe I could call the hospital chaplain to meet with her.”

All of these thoughts….as I ran out the door behind the nurse practitioner.

Later that morning, the surgeon asked me to go back into that patient’s room to give her an update on a test she had.

Vaguely, I recalled her request for prayer when we were in her room earlier as I entered the room this time but I felt it would be safe to update her on her test without her repeating her request to me.  The surgeon would expect me back quickly and I needed to be available to him if he needed anything.

I entered the room and went to her bedside to give her the test results.  She listened intently and simultaneously stared into my eyes.

As I finished, she grabbed my arm and said “You look like you have Jesus in your eyes”.

It may have been that she spotted my cross necklace that I wear every day, but, I like to think that she did she Jesus in my eyes.  I believe that the Holy Spirit that is within us shows up in many ways and, at that second, she was looking at the eyes of Jesus.

I thought to myself, “Okay Holy Spirit, guide me here because I am in unknown territory.”

I took the patients hand and asked if she would like me to pray with her.  She was so delighted that I had asked and accepted my offering.

I don’t remember the prayer or the words that came from my mouth.

The Holy Spirit did just as He has promised and supplied me with the words to say.  I felt her anxiety fade as I prayed and a genuine smile came across her face.

She knew Jesus was there with her and she could face anything that came at her that day.

And so could I……..

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