Working in a spiritually diverse team offers an opportunity to witness to both staff and patients
4 MINUTE READ
We are called to be light and salt in the world, and this often means being in diverse workplaces and teams. In workplaces where we are often the only Christian, we are the representation of Christ through our every word and action.
Ephesians 6:5-7 says “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.” (ESV).
God has always placed me in secular workplaces throughout life. In each environment, he has built my capacity to understand and relate to people and the joys and struggles in their lives. He grows my ability to both work effectively in an earthly sense, and to simultaneously be His representation in each situation.
Working in palliative care has placed me in many different situations where strong opinions and beliefs were brought to the fore with many colleagues, patients and their families as we encountered the reality of life and death on a daily basis.
Within my small team of nurses, there might be atheists, agnostics, different forms of new age spiritualism, and Christians with varying theological stances. Then there were the patients that we were caring for, and their families, with their diverse belief systems represented, eg. different indigenous spiritual beliefs, the Bahai faith, varying forms of Hinduism, and different Christian denominations.
“The discussion topics of hope, suffering and the afterlife were more than just discussion topics. They were real and pressing issues that patients, their families and friends, and nursing and medical teams were dealing with daily.”
The discussion topics of hope, suffering and the afterlife were more than just discussion topics. They were real and pressing issues that patients, their families and friends, and nursing and medical teams were dealing with daily.
In many general medical wards, the spiritual side to a patient is often not recognised to the same level as their physical, mental and emotional sides. In my palliative care team, there is a purpose in the best form of holistic care for the patient. A key aspect of this is recognising and addressing the spiritual component of the patient’s well-being. This is an opportunity not always available within the workplace to bring the Christian truth to others around me.
The only good part of doing night shifts was when patients who were having trouble sleeping, wrestling with these issues, would ask me questions like, “What do you think there is next?” I loved being able to have these discussions that would sometimes be overheard by other nurses.
Thanks to the relationship and trust I had built with the other nurses through following Ephesians 6:5-7 (above), we were then able to have our own discussions in the nurses’ station through the night. I not only had the opportunity to share Jesus and His hope with them, but to better understand their lives and the beliefs that influenced their thinking.
“I not only had the opportunity to share Jesus and His hope with them, but to better understand their lives and the beliefs that influenced their thinking.”
Despite our diversity, we were united in providing the best care for our patients. This involved providing appropriate spiritual care, including visits from chaplains, ngangkaries (a word commonly used in Central Australia for “traditional healers” or “witchdoctors”), or spiritual leaders from different faiths/beliefs.
I was challenged when patients would have faiths or beliefs that were obviously contradictory to the Christian faith. However, the role of the palliative care nurse is to ensure that each patient receives the most appropriate form of comfort care, and so when this included calling the spiritual leader of a different faith group, then that is what we did.
Many Christians can relate to this challenge in their work environments – seeing colleagues, patients or clients holding and practising a belief in clear contradiction to who we know to be the Creator, Ruler and Saviour, and struggling to find the right way to witness within the constraints of our earthly employers and workplace policies. However, no earthly employer could stop me praying for each patient to come to Jesus and put their trust solely in Him.
God was able to use me in this way, gently demonstrating my faith in the true King and as a witness to surrounding colleagues. On reflection, it was through working in a spiritually diverse team that was unified in providing spiritual care for our patients, that I was given many opportunities to witness to both staff and patients. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
Wendy Harris RN
Wendy Harris has worked as a Palliative Care Registered Nurse in Alice Springs, NT after moving from Newcastle, NSW. She enjoys being creative, going for walks in the beautiful scenery, spending time with friends and sharing God’s Word.