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The ministry of nursing is servant work. Sometimes it is dirty work like washing feet and emptying bedpans," say Judith Shelly and Arlene Miller in Called to Care: A Christian Theology of Nursing.1 People often ask me if I realize that one day I will be the one changing soiled sheets and cleaning up accidents-all that gross stuff that no one wants to do. When they ask, I cheerfully respond, "Yes!!" and explain to them that although it will be nasty at times, it is what I want to do, what I am called to do.

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We are each called to be servants of God, as Jesus was. Jesus Christ, the Son of the most high God, humbled himself and washed his disciples' feet; if the King of the heavens and the earth did it, why can't I?


I feel honored to be called to a profession as humbling as nursing. Yes, we do the dirty work, but what a joy to know that our Father blesses that work. Jesus tells us, "Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40). Caring for others brings me satisfaction that I know I could find nowhere else. I know that satisfaction comes from God smiling down on my efforts to care for his creation. Our work will often be behind the scenes, but we can always rejoice that God sees our efforts and blesses us for them.


Each person who belongs to the body of Christ has been given certain gifts for ministry, and nursing falls under two of them. First, nurses are endowed with the gift of compassion. Romans 12:8 states that grace has given us the gift of compassion in cheerfulness. Not only are we called to serve out of compassion, but we are also given the ability to do it cheerfully.


Second, we are given the gift of ministry. As Shelly and Miller tell us, the Greek word for ministry means "service," and nursing is definitely a profession of service.


Shelly and Miller share several examples of how nursing is a servant ministry; I identify with the one about the nurse who gives up a well-paying position to work in an inner-city clinic that pays much less. My future plans include working on the mission field. I know that I will be caring for people suffering in all dimensions, and my compensation will not be monetary. I may never even see the fruit of my labor. However, I will constantly be blessed by the pleasure of knowing I am serving God and sharing his love with others.


I know that it will not always be easy to remember the blessings we receive for our work in nursing. We will often get discouraged, sometimes because of lack of praise and appreciation, sometimes because of our own personal stressors, sometimes just because we are worn out. I will not always respond with a smile when it is time to empty a bedpan or change a diaper. But I do know that God will always be there, watching me work and giving me the strength needed to get through the day. He blesses all of us for our work, especially those of us who do the dirty work.


What Do You Think?

Has nursing been a satisfying career decision for you? Share your thoughts and feeling about nursing using the JCN Nursing Satisfaction Scale. Log onto our site at: to participate. On the home page, see "Survey." The survey will continue through December 31, 2002. Results will be reported in the Summer '03 issue of JCN.


1 Judith Shelly and Arlene Miller, Called to Care: A Christian Theology of Nursing (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 213. [Context Link]