1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy

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I'm uneasy about nurses who tell me they don't read any nursing literature, disdain inservice education or wait until the last minute to obtain continuing education required for relicensure. This seems indicative of coasting as opposed to growing professionally. I am even more troubled when I hear Christian nurses groan and say things like, "I deal with nursing all day; I don't want to leave work and think about it any more!!"

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While God calls us to live a balanced life of rest and work (see Gen 2:2-3; Ex 16; Mt 11:28-30), he simultaneously calls us to excellence. Scripture emphasizes doing our work excellently, as people zealous for good deeds (i.e., Eph 6:7-8; Col 3:17, 23-24; Tit 2:9-14; 1 Pet 2:18-25). This concept is articulated clearly in Colossians 3:23-24 which states, "Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ." Ephesians 6:7-8 adds, "Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women." In the first century when these books were written, the employment system used slaves and masters. Today we have employers, supervisors and employees, but the principles for work remain the same.


What does it mean to enthusiastically put ourselves into the task of nursing? It begins with motivation, where the driving force for our work is pleasing Christ. As people given abundant life, our nursing springs forth from profound gratitude for what Christ has done for us. Because Jesus is our Lord, everything is done for him; there is no area of life that stands outside of his control, no distinction between the secular and the sacred. All of life is about serving Christ.


Since we work for our Lord, the standards of our workmanship are to be the best possible. Our service is not superficial but we nurse with sincerity of heart (Eph 6:5-8). What are standards of excellence in nursing practice? In the U.S., fifteen Standards of Nursing Practice and Professional Performance have been developed by the American Nurses Association (ANA).1 Based on the nursing process, the Standards are authoritative statements that describe specific responsibilities we are accountable for in daily practice. For example, Standard 1. Assessment reads, "The registered nurse collects comprehensive data pertinent to the patient's health or the situation." This means we prioritize data collection activities based on the patient's situation, systematically and holistically collect all pertinent data; then analyze, synthesize and document all relevant and accurate data. That's a far cry from the assessment practices a colleague recently told me about. As a new graduate orienting on a step-down unit, she noticed the nurses documented more information in patients' records than what she saw them assess. She respectfully tried to question this practice and was told nurses don't have time to do textbook assessments. For the most part time is a limited resource in patient care, but these nurses had surrendered to mediocrity and falsifying patient records.


God offers Christian nurses a more excellent way (1 Cor 12:31). He also provides the mechanisms to work excellently. Joni McCollum, a nurse manager who left an administrative position to work as a staff nurse then was called back to management, tells how God spoke to her about severely limited resources. As she struggled in prayer over her unit's short staffing and time crunches, God told her, "Open your eyes of faith. You have all you need at your fingertips." She and a colleague then discovered God's plan for combating their limited resources and started the national "Rescue Nurse" movement.2 The ANA Standards of Practice address this type of problem solving and impacting the system in Standard 7. Quality of Practice; Standard 9. Professional Practice Evaluation; and Standard 14. Resource Utilization.


The ANA Standards similarly call nurses to proactive growth. Standard 8. Education reads, "The registered nurse attains knowledge and competency that reflects current nursing practice." This means a lifelong commitment to dynamic learning. It means reflecting on areas where we need more knowledge to provide optimal care. It means being honest about what we don't know and need to know.


God calls Christians to meet his standards for living. We find his standards in Scripture passages such as Micah 6:8, Matthew 22:37-40 and Philippians 2:3-5. Are godly and professional practice standards too difficult to implement? The Apostle Paul said absolutely not, for "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13).




1 American Nurses Association, Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (Silver Spring, MD:, 2004). [Context Link]


2 Joni McCollum, "Thinking Outside the Box: Rescue Nurses Lend a Hand," Journal of Christian Nursing 21, no. 4 (Fall 2004): 22-25. [Context Link]