Nursing, a truly thankless job
After visiting a friend of mine in the hospital, I stopped at the station to chat with a nurse. Five months ago I had occupied the room across the hall as I recovered from knee replacement surgery. With a little nostalgia in my voice, I told her. “Knee replacement?” she smiled, since this was an orthopedic wing.
“Yes,” I answered.
She had noticed me walking toward her from down the hall.
“You’re doing very well. You’re not using a cane or walker or anything.”
“Yes, I am,” I said. “Thanks to you nurses and others here, I am.”
There was a pause.
“You know, I think I remember you,” she said.
I looked at her. She looked familiar to me, too. Then recollection kicked in: her face, her smile, her name. She was one of my nurses, and she had handled my discharge. I told her.
“Thank you for stopping,” she said. “You know, we seldom see the outcome of our work. We help people get well enough to leave the hospital, and that’s the last we see of them. We have no idea what difference our treatment has had in their lives over the longer haul.”
I hadn’t thought of that. Almost by definition, hospital nursing is a thankless profession. People come in sick. Nurses help get the healing process started and usually never see them again. They may see a patient back in the hospital if things didn’t go well, but the healthy ones hardly ever come back.
Clergy are much more likely to see the longer term results of their work. Physicians also develop longer term relationships with their patients. Even teachers, if they stay in the community for a while, get to see their students grow up. But hospital nurses: Theirs is an interim assignment. Rarely does a well patient return to say, “Thank you.”
Jesus told a story about ten lepers who were healed. He gave the instructions and spoke the words, but they had to leave him before the healing actually took place. Only one of the ten returned to say, “Thank you.” Jesus expressed regret that the percentage was so small, but that is how we human beings are.
Our relationship with God also reflects this. Not only do we forget to say thanks to people, we tend to take God and his beneficial gifts for granted as well. When we need something, asking God in prayer is easy. When the answer comes, we quickly move on to something else, forgetting the one who was the source of our blessing.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” says the Bible. We need to say “thanks” to the people who have blessed our lives. We also need to say “thanks” to God much more than we do.
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