1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy

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Do you ever find it scary to be a nurse? I do. In the past year I have had two MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections, the second being worse than the first, with systemic symptoms and a nasty allergic reaction to Bactrim. Three of my family members ended up with MRSA, two of whom also had significant infections. As nurses, we've all cared for patients who are HIV or hepatitis C positive. We get our TB skin tests every year to make sure we haven't been exposed to tuberculosis. Besides infections, the patients I work with in behavioral health can be threatening in their manic, psychotic, delirious, or confused states. I've been threatened, yelled at, cussed out, had things thrown at me. I've cared for patients with head and body lice, unkempt, covered in excrement, in the worst state of degradation. We all have horror stories we could tell about scary work situations.

Figure. Kathy Schoon... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner

Now we are told we face an upcoming flu pandemic. In preparing the article by John Chappell and Debbie Bridges, Prepared or Unprepared for Pandemic Flu (pp. 80-85), I thought, what next? When a pandemic strikes and I'm required to care for those sick with influenza, what if I get sick? What if I expose my family and they get sick? What will we have to go through?


Before getting too caught up in fear, I turned my thoughts to God's eternal Word. When my children were younger, I taught them Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV), "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?" King David said in Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." I am reminded to not be afraid but look to and trust God. He called me to be a nurse, he will be with me, and he will help me.


I think as well about Jesus and his willingness to touch those who had life-threatening illness (Matthew 8:2-3; Mark 1:40-42) or spend time in scary situations (Matthew 21:12-13). Of course, he was God and I am a mere mortal. But he clearly calls me to minister to the sick, to touch those who need my help. Today we can touch wisely, protecting ourselves with gloves, masks, and gowns. I am grateful for these resources to use in care of the sick. I also am grateful for God's grace that only will allow what he wills in my life as I work for him, doing the work he prepared in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). And I certainly can trust Jesus' words the night before he was arrested and crucified, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).


I also can prepare. Scripture instructs us to be watchful, ready, on the alert (Matthew 25:1-13; Mark 13:32-37), working whole-heartedly as we wait for his return (1 Thessalonians 5). I have begun to store up supplies and be ready for the possibility of isolation and seclusion for an extended period of time. I have sharpened my hygiene skills and am actively coaching my family and friends to use better hand-washing, better sanitation, to be on the alert. I am praying about how to approach my church to discuss helping our congregation prepare for pandemic flu. Chappell and Bridges offer concrete planning ideas to guide us in approaching and working with our faith communities. I want to be willing to serve on a disaster planning committee at church if that is what God wants.


None of us wants to go through a pandemic flu disaster. Unfortunately, it appears we may not have a choice. As a Christian nurse, I can be confident that God will be with me and watch over me no matter what arises. In the end, I don't know what the future holds. But I do know the One who holds the future and I know I can trust him. He called me into nursing, he will use me for his glory as I let him, and he will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5-6).