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The day started with another death pronouncement. How many of these can I handle? I feel emotionally drained. How much more can I give? Apathy looms nearby. I feel like I have nothing left to give, yet I am supposed to keep pressing forward, giving my all. That's the name of the game.


Today I am faced with the feeling of failure. What difference do my efforts make in the lives of those for whom I am attempting to provide care? I have no answers, just questions. Questions whirl in my mind, and discouragement eats at my emotions.


The day-to-day suffering that we encounter in healthcare can easily promote a feeling of apathy. There seems a great chasm between feelings of apathy and emotional involvement with our patients.


At the end of my shift, with my thoughts in utter confusion, I make my way toward the exit of the nursing home. I pass Ms. Watkins room. Sitting on her bed, she calls out to me, "Have a good day, Ms. Diggins. See you tomorrow!!" in her normal cheerful voice.


Her voice grabs me and draws me away from myriad suffocating emotions. I stop in her doorway and greet her. With her hair all askew, she glances up at me and smiles.


She quickly exclaims, "Don't work too hard; we love having you here!!"


I am speechless. Mustering some words I reply, "Have a great day, Ms. Watkins," and walk to my car.


Ms. Watkins' simple greeting presents a wake-up call for me. How can my efforts seem so futile one moment and renewed the next? I acknowledge that the suffering I see everyday is real. Even when I give my best efforts, my patients die, and yes, it feels like one step forward and two steps backward. But today I am reminded in such a simple way that I have to keep pressing forward. Life as a nurse requires me to make the best of the decisions in front of me. It's not about giving up, no matter how tempting that option is at times.


In long-term nursing care, I am challenged to look for the daily sparks. Ms. Watkins reminds me that I am my patients' best advocate. She humbles me to recognize that the overall outcome of my patients' healthcare is out of my hands. When my patients are secure in their faith, death is not the enemy.


Jesus made it clear in his time on earth that healing of the physical body is not the ultimate goal. He continually pointed beyond to eternal purposes of healing through his loving touch. Matthew tells us in his gospel,


Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24, NIV)


Through Christ's touch, people were pointed to God. Following his example, I do the best I can do for my patients and help them to enjoy each moment through his strength. I point them to the cross, where ultimate healing is found. With renewed perspective, I know that although their condition may worsen, my goal of leading them to Christ's truth does not change. Such perspective is the cure for apathy.