Nursing Is A Work of Heart Paige Clarke

"When a person makes the decision to become a nurse, he or she makes the most important decision of his or her life." Anonymous

Nursing can be defined as a profession which involves both an art and science of the heart and mind. A fundamental aspect of nursing is “having and showing respect for human dignity and an intuition for a patient’s needs” (ANA).

Nurses do not just consider test results and objective measures when caring for their patients but use the nursing process to integrate their clinical knowledge to interpret all the feelings a patient may have (ANA).

To achieve the best care for all patients, nurses often have to make sacrifices, such as compromising the environment outside the hospital walls. Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical, ponders over several popular topics regarding the environment, human relationships and the Church which all connect well with the nursing profession.

As the number one ranked most trusted profession continuously for the past 15 years, according to Gallup Rank Polls, a nurse’s kind gestures, gentle care, and dignified work correlates quite strongly with the many points made throughout Laudato Si, while also reflecting Catholic social teachings.

A nurse constitutes many roles, not just serving as a caregiver. Although the main focus of a nurse is to “protect, promote, and improve health for all ages,” there are many factors that contribute to accomplishing this duty (ANA).

LEADER A nurse may act first as a leader; managing, organizing, and collaborating with others to reach a common goal. A leader must influence others to work together, effectively and efficiently. This is done through a learned process which requires the understanding of one’s constituents’ needs and desires that motivate them, the knowledge and ability to apply these skills, and the social adaptations to build a productive team (ANA).

COMMUNICATOR Another role of a nurse includes acting as the main line of communication. Not only does the nurse communicate with the patient, but also the family and the entire healthcare team identifying any problems a patient may have and passing along this information to other team members.

TEACHER and COUNSELOR The nurse can also act as a teacher and counselor, disseminating information about the patient’s health or any procedures needed to perform to restore or maintain their health (ANA). A nurse also helps a patient to recognize and cope with stressful psychological, social or physical ailments, supporting interpersonal relationships and personal growth (ANA). This reflects a nurse’s task to care for the whole person; body, mind, and soul.

CHANGE AGENT and PATIENT ADVOCATE The overall, most important roles as a nurse is acting as a change agent and being the patient’s advocate. A nurse is in charge of all her patient’s care plans, so if a need for a change arises, it is the job of the nurse to make sure the appropriate revisions are made to ensure each patient is receiving the proper care. This relates to a nurse being a patient’s advocate by representing the client’s needs and wishes and helping a client to exercise their rights.

"Be the type of nurse you would want to work with." Anonymous

The difficult job of a nurse, caring for several patients during a 12 plus hour shift, always on her feet, dealing with all types of people, while also having a life outside the hospital, can be exhausting. Yet, despite all that a nurse does, she still has a duty to uphold a certain attitude and composure when working with her patients and coworkers. The effect a nurse has on her patients can direct the route of healing, making it even more crucial for a nurse to separate herself from what may going on in her personal life from what is happening in the hospital.


Mary Foley, the director of the Center for Nursing Research and Innovation at the University of California, states, “although there is a tremendous amount of science to our practice, there is still necessity to have the art, the communication and empathy.”

The actions, attitude, body language and tone of voice a nurse may have can affect how a patient perceives the nurse, the care they are receiving and their overall health care experience (Wood).

The need to listen and have compassion “provides a sense to patients that their condition and concerns are being heard, recognized, and acted upon” (Robert Hanks).
Paulette Heitmeyer, chief nursing officer at Marina Del Rey Hospital in California, states, “compassion allows a patient to feel cared for, respected and trust that the nurse has his or her best interest in mind… When patients feel that a nurse truly cares, they begin to allow you in, offering the small details that may lead to a diagnosis, or information that could help you better care for him or her.”

This facet of nursing can be related to the film, “Wonder,” where the main character, Auggie Pullman, a young boy, was born with a condition called mandibulofacial dysostosis. Auggie underwent numerous surgeries, 27 to be exact, in attempt to ‘correct’ his face. Yet, no matter how many surgeries he would have, he would always look different. People stared at him, making Auggie so self-conscious that he felt the need to cover his entire head with an astronaut helmet. Nurses come in contact with many cases involving patients who may look, sound, and act different, but a part of having composure is to act as if that patient is not different from anyone else.

Jack Will admits to viewing Auggie as an outcast at first, but after quickly learning to love the person Auggie is, despite his external features, their friendship developed into a deep connection where Auggie knew he could trust Jack completely enough to be himself. It is essential for a nurse to create a trusting and therapeutic relationship with each patient, to make the patient feel comfortable and cared for, similar to Auggie and Jack Will’s relationship.

Relating nursing to Laudato Si, in section three, “The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism,” touches upon the aspect of human centrality.

Anthropocentrism can be defined as the regard for “humankind as the central or most important element of existence,” even reigning over God and animals (Oxford Dictionary).

The whole entity of a nurse is to care for human beings, the same rational of anthropocentrism. A nurse’s main focus are her patients, coming before everything else.

“When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: ‘Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed,’” an excerpt of Laudato Si (3, 115).

A person who becomes a nurse often feels called to care for others, respecting and attempting to preserve the dignity of his or her patients. A nurse understands the importance of life, especially a human life, and tries her best to care for those who are in need. “Man is… God’s gift to man,” making it a nurse’s duty to help, heal, and encourage others to uphold God’s gift to ourselves (3, 115).

However, tending to patients can come at a cost for the environment. Within hospitals, nurses are diligent about the safety of their patients, for example, focusing a great amount on the prevention of infection. With this, nurses contribute to the damage of the environment outside the hospital in order to preserve the internal environment for their patients.

“Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself” a quote from Laudato Si, which attempts to explain that caring for others is important and honorable but forgetting about the effect it has on the environment is crucial (3, 117).


Not only does Laudato Si relate the effects of anthropocentrism to the damage of the environment, but also the acts it plays against nature.

Once a man decides to “instead… carry out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature” (3, 117).

When humans work against all that God has given to them, making choices that damage the environment or others, it is a crime against nature. Pope Francis goes further to explain how “misguided anthropocentrism” is what has led to humans not taking responsibility for their actions in destroying the environment (3, 118).

As nurses, with this idea in mind, of wanting the best for our patients, but knowing our actions have consequently caused damage to our world outside the hospital, the need to rethink of new ways to decrease the chance of further pollution is vital.

Pope Francis says “everything is related,” and the actions to save lives inside the hospital do affect the environment outside (3, 142).

Nursing is “the largest professional group in a polluting industry,” matching the healthcare industry, as a whole, which creates “10% of Greenhouse Gases in the nation” (Schenk). There are several solutions that can be instilled, “through behaviors, purchasing decisions, care protocols, direct care, and patient and community education” (Schenk).

A role of a nurse includes acting as a change agent, not only for the patient’s sake, but for the environment’s sake; “as the most trusted voice in America for many years running, [nurses] are in pivotal positions to make changes” (Schenk). As Pope Francis pronounces the gift man is to man, presented by God, pertains the duty humans have to each other and to the environment God made especially for humans.


Nurses work hard to respect and preserve the dignity of their patients, empathizing with them in a time where they feel weak, uncomfortable, and often embarrassed.

The Catholic social teaching, Human Dignity, connecting to nursing, is defined as the concept depicting “human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, [having] by their very existence an inherent value, worth, and distinction” (Daniel Groody “Globalization, Spirituality and Justice”).

A nurse needs not only to care for their patients but allow them as much independence as permitted and to preserve their dignity.

Another Catholic social teaching that corresponds with the nursing profession is Dignity in Work.

Dignity in Work can be defined as the fulfillment of human dignity be engaging in and cooperating with the creative work of God.

There is an honorability working as a nurse, providing care for those in need and doing what many people will not do and cannot do. It is a respected profession for many reasons that is continuously proven when hard, honest work is put in every time a nurse steps foot into her workplace.

Another Catholic social teaching related to nursing is Community and Participation, defined as the idea that “We are not created by God to live alone. Living in community is an essential expression of who we are. But Community does not just happen – it is something that men and women must work together to develop” (Catholic Social Teachings).

For a nurse to care for a patient and his or her family, she will need to maintain a safe, comfortable and healthy environment to promote healing, including a community of support and love.

Moreover, not only does the nurse care for the environment and community surrounding their patients, but an obvious Care for Creation, another relatable Catholic social teaching.

The Care for Creation, defined as by Pope Francis; “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.”

Possibly the most identifiable Catholic social teaching nursing can relate to; caring for those who require and wish for help without question or hesitation.

IN CONCLUSION The profession of nursing, one that takes both heart and soul, is a relevant piece in the discussion of Laudato Si when discussing the importance of how all, even nurses, can affect the environment and its strong correlation to several Catholic social teachings.

A nurse, fulfilling many roles, has the duty to respect and preserve the dignity in all her patients, while also performing the best quality of care to ensure optimal healing and growth.

Maintaining composure and compassion for patients like Auggie Pullman, allow for a nurse to develop a therapeutic and trusting relationship with her patients.

A nurse is a work of heart, but which requires blood, sweat, and even some tears at times.


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