Growing in Empathy Through Nursing
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My dear Sisters,
As women, there is an undeniable tug on our hearts to love. How we each express this is as numerous as there are women on the earth and in history. While society tells us to turn this love only towards ourselves - I say reach. Spread your fingers as wide as they will go - though your hands may be small, let them never be callous.
Our Lord Himself will fill in the gaps.
It is in these moments when we raise our heads, tear our eyes from the mirror and leave our cool, yet so very chilly selves behind, that we are found. For me, it will always be the patients...
It was a very busy shift at the hospital, I hadn't had lunch and I had been sprayed with most kinds of bodily fluid (moms out there, I'm sure you can relate!) and the 12 hours were drawing to a close. Freedom and a bath were in reach. My patience was wearing thin and showing on my face. I had a mix of very sick and very needy people. I was more than a little agitated that I couldn't give care, the extra little things to the very sick because the call bells were ringing from the other patients' rooms.
Just as I was wondering where the heck the day shift nurse was, my phone rang. It was the charge nurse calling to tell me that the oncoming nurse was stuck in traffic. "Can you stay?" She asked. Inside-self was squirming - you deserve to go, that hot shower and sleep...
In my heart, He asked, "Can you give a little more for the the least of mine?"
"Ughhh, okaaaayyyy," is usually my gut reaction. That little stomach fluttering when you know - this is what you must do.
It is in those little moments that he gives us the strength for one more. I walked into a new patient's room, a smile barely plastered on. As I stood in the doorway, I was struck by a wave of empathy.
I looked with fresh eyes at the scene before me. An elderly woman, confused and upset. "I've wet myself! I can't get up!" In that moment, I was giving away His love.
He had given his stubborn vessel the holding capacity for one more of His own. If I had known at the beginning of the day what He would ask of me (as with many of us, I'm sure) I would have never gotten out of bed, but little by little, He asks of us. And he fills in the gaps.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is Bethany Marie Gabriele, a 23-year-old night shift emergency room nurse.
Describe one fear or personal challenge that keeps you up at night.
One personal challenge/ fear I have is becoming apathetic, or lukewarm and callus towards the suffering I encounter at work or with my own family and loved ones. Because I know what dying looks like, I can pretty readily tell someone they are certainly not. But that isn’t what we are called to do. If I am only empathetic to the actively dying, that is most of the world’s suffering belittled and brushed away. I am working on always seeing a suffering person with fresh eyes, and try to minister to what their real needs are.
Tell us about the first time you experienced a strong sense of belonging inthe Catholic Church.
When I was a young girl of four or five I remember at mass feeling a swelling, rushing, fluttering feeling in my little heart during Mass when the congregation sang the great Amen. Hearing all the voices come together to make something as beautiful as our response to the Mass has always inspired a sense of belonging. The knowledge that not matter what parish I visit, the Mass is always a steady pillar and I am participating in something much larger than myself.
* Please note that this letter and these answers were written in early 2017. Since then, the author has been married & turned one year older.