1. Salladay, Susan A.

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I was always delighted on the days when Twyla*, a talented professional colleague and dear Christian friend, worked in the ICU because I knew my students would have a meaningful clinical experience. I've known Twyla for years. We'd laughed, cried, and prayed together through difficult events in our lives, like her divorce and later, the death of our parents. So imagine me-jaw-droppingly blown away-when Twyla announced to the staff that she was quitting nursing to tour the world with a man from another country she met several months before through an online dating service.


"I'm wildly in love!" Twyla burbled, showing everyone his picture.


Questions flew: "When's the wedding?" "What does he do?" "Won't you miss being a nurse?"


Twyla explained that she'd had enough of nursing: "I don't think I can stand hearing another alarm!" All she could speak of was beginning a new life with her new man. "He is sexy and really rich, so I don't need to work. We're planning a commitment ceremony. Together we've grown beyond organized religion so outdated rituals like marriage don't mean much to us."


Later, Twyla and I had time alone. I asked her if she felt she had grown beyond Jesus. "Who is Jesus for you now; is he still Lord of your life?" She shot back, "You know, those have become empty words for me. I don't want to hear your criticism. I've made a choice, and I'm moving forward!"


Twyla said she didn't want to hear, but it seemed to me that she couldn't hear what I was asking. Twyla's relationship with Jesus was in serious danger as she was distracted by her new love. My concern for her was genuine and heart felt, but she'd lashed out with edgy denials. As we continued to talk, Twyla threw up barriers and avoidance mechanisms like distraction, desensitization, and disdain. My ethical dilemma: how to share God's truth gently and with love to my friend, who no longer wanted to hear.


Twyla said she felt burnt out as a nurse. I had no idea-she'd hidden that feeling well. I recalled a recent article about alarm fatigue:


Cacophony on the unit creates an environment that poses a significant risk to patient safety. Alarms can go on unendingly, and important alarms may be overlooked [while] noise negatively affects the healthcare staff, leading to stress, burnout, and conflict, causing distractions that may lead to errors, due to a lack of concentration and lapses in attention. (Bridi, Louro, & da Silva, 2014)


Nurses now recognize that alarm fatigue causes "selective hearing," as caregivers become adept at tuning out the barrage of noise. This desensitization to alarms has led to critical patient events so in 2016, the Joint Commission approved a National Patient Safety Goal on clinical alarm safety (Castro, 2017).


God designed spiritual alarms that warn of danger, but spiritual alarm fatigue-a person's insensitivity, inability to hear these warnings-can also lead to demise. "For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, proud, headstrong, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:2-7); "To be worldly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Romans 8:6-8, Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible).


Jude 1:23 urges followers of Jesus to "be merciful to those who doubt, snatching them from the fire to save them." How can nurses remain sensitive to spiritual alarms from God? Those who are good listeners show a willing heart. Those who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit learn to count on his indwelling strength.


Now, Twyla is traveling on both a geographical and a spiritual journey. I send notes to remind her how often her friends think of her with love. Every day I pray that she is delivered from danger and will hear spiritual alarms that reopen her heart to Christ.


Bridi A. C., Louro T. Q., da Silva R. C. (2014). Clinical alarms in intensive care: Implications of alarm fatigue for the safety of patients. Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem, 22(6), 1034-1040. doi:10.1590/0104-1169.3488.2513 [Context Link]


Castro G. (2017). Turning up the volume of alarm management. Retrieved from[Context Link]


* Names have been changed to reflect privacy. [Context Link]