Why in the World Did I Become a Nurse? A Christian Parish Nurse Shares Her Story

In this article, the author shares her personal adventure in becoming a nurse and her gradually changing view of what nursing means. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Why in the World Did I Become a Nurse? A Christian Parish Nurse Shares Her Story

As a young girl who loved to read, I became acquainted with the story of Clara Barton. I idealized the vision of becoming a nurse wearing a starched, white nurses' uniform, complete with squeaky clean white shoes, and a nurse's cap. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew just what to say and would answer promptly, "I want to be a nurse and if not a nurse, a hairdresser."

Despite my confused ideas about what a nurse was and did, I moved toward the goal with purpose. During my college years I began to understand fully the rigorous scientific nature of my chosen profession and my vision of nursing swiftly morphed from an aesthetically pleasing picture to a reality of pursuing accuracy and knowledge and skills in patient care. By necessity, during those first years the focus rested heavily on a desire for proficiency and experience. I knew what a professional nurse was because I saw them in my teachers and in the longer- practicing colleagues around me, but for a number of years I struggled with stepping beyond the confines of my inexperience to live into the deeper calling I felt.

Over the years of practicing nursing in a variety of settings, I continued to learn, grow and stretch, gradually gaining the self-knowledge and assurance to be both technically sound and deeply caring toward my patients and co-workers. As my spiritual life began to translate into a daily life of walking with Christ, so my nursing changed into an expression of my faith-not with words but with deeds.

When the youngest of the three children was four, I was working very part-time and looking for new ways to grow in my career. I saw a note in our church newsletter that said, "Parish Nurse Needed." The article went on to describe what a parish nurse was and did. I was floored as I had never heart of such a thing! I carefully cut out the article, put a circle around it and wrote, "My dream job." Then I tucked the note away in a drawer. The next month we went on vacation with another couple and their children. My girlfriend was also a nurse and as we walked along the beach I told her about the dream job description.

"Did you apply for it?" she asked. "No, I'm sure it's full time and I just can't do that right now." She punched me gently in the arm. "Just go for it, Joy. You'll never know if you don't ask. Apply." And so I did. That was 1997 and the beginning of almost twenty years of parish nursing.

During our Parish Nurse Orientation, I learned for the first time about Granger Westberg and his vision for parish nursing. He saw what seems abundantly clear in retrospect: the church and nursing belong together. Looking over the timeline of the history of nursing (Faith Community Nursing Curriculum) we see repeatedly where healthcare and the church joined hands in ministry, acknowledging that true shalom can only exist when body, mind, and spirit are in harmony.

As I began my journey in parish nursing, I started out with great enthusiasm for providing plenty of information, brochures, classes, teaching. My philosophy of nursing at the time dictated that if I supplied enough of the correct information then people would want this thing that I was offering: wholistic health. Of course, I say this with some humor because I continue to offer information and classes, but I gradually realized that there is so much more to the human spirit than simply working to transform behavior. I began to understand down deep that Christ wanted more, much more, than just healthy bodies-He was looking for the entire person, every part of each one of us.

I recently read with great interest Rev. Frederick W. Reklau's "14 Theses on Healing (and Cure)." His list effectively summarizes the personal transformation I experienced over time-a change from a philosophy centered on cure toward a vision focused on healing and restoration. Some of the 14 points he makes especially stand out to me:

  1. Cure may occur without healing; healing may occur without cure.
  2. Cure separates body from soul; healing embraces the whole.
  3. Cure costs; healing enhances.
  4. Cure combats illness; healing fosters wellness.
  5. Cure is an act; healing is a process.

This vision is reinforced by looking to the example of the Lord, "Jesus traveled through all the cities and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And wherever he went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness. He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help." Matthew 9:35-36 (NLT).

Through Jesus I can find and adopt that centered philosophy of nursing that so long eluded me: he shows both balance and purpose, dividing his time wisely between teaching, preaching and healing. He knew how to set his priorities, how to focus in on what really mattered, and how to allow his heart to be poured out for those he met and ministered to. Ultimately, he offered up his whole self, body and spirit, to be broken for us so that we can share in that communion of shalom.


Joy has been a nurse for 35 years, practicing in a variety of settings. Currently, she is a Faith Community Nurse. She enjoys her grandchildren, cooking for crowds and taking long walks.

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Specializes in Adult MICU/SICU.

Your employers are lucky to have you. You sound like a joy and a breath of fresh air. Amen sister!

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing.

Very nicely written article, I enjoyed it very much! Thank you for sharing.

Good grief, Charlie Brown !

VERY inspiring!! I am going to look Rev. Frederick W. Reklau's 14 Theses on Healing (and Cure)" up!!

Thank you to AN for allowing a diversity in thoughts, opinions and values of their members! Some sites, nursing and non-nursing, run far from it!

I am currently praying about whether or not the Lord would have me take on the role of the Parish Nurse. I saw your article and references and was so blessed @ Thank you for sharing this information in obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit!