The core of the sermon given at The Royal C0llege of Nursing South West Service to celebrate 100 years of the Royal College of Nursing on Nurses Day 12th May 2016
I have followed with interest and pleasure the tweeter campaign which has been running for the Royal College of nursing over the last few months #thankanurse. Wonderful stories captured in under 140 characters.
I am a great supporter of nurses, having seen some of the best care imaginable across the country– and I still believe that the extra ordinary difference is often made through the most ordinary – hands held, words of comfort, someone to listen, someone to just sit with you: and technically excellent but compassionate care – that is at the heart of nursing. For me the art of nursing is in the application of the science.
And behind every nurse there are many supporters, husbands, wives, partners, mums and dads, children, friends and for the last 100 years the Royal College of Nursing. The Royal College of Nursing was formed at a time when women couldn’t even vote and since then has supported nurses to provide competent and compassionate excellent care; they have represented the interests of nurses and sought to influence government and bodies across the UK to improve the quality of patient care. I know as a nurse, director of nursing and the government’s Chief Nursing Officer for England that health care and patients benefit from a strong Royal College.
In Mark’s gospel (2:1-12) we have five men. Four of them being stretcher bearers and the firth being the paralysed man taken to Jesus for healing; The man on the stretcher could not have got to Jesus on his own and the friends took him with no idea that Jesus was going to make any difference to him and this wasn’t an easy task. They had to carry him along what was probable a dusty uneven road, and when they got there the crowds meant they could not enter by the door so they then had to carry him up onto the roof, then cut a hole in the roof and then lower him down. A man’s friends help lower him through a Palestinian house roof made of sticks and clay, laid across larger logs. Unsaid is what chaos this must have caused below as stubble and sticks begin falling on those gathered around Jesus. Suddenly, the man was lowered on his mat finds himself before Jesus, who surprised by such confidence on the part of his friends, saw their faith – he saw their faith and the story ends with the man being healed and leaving.
The man found himself in Jesus’ presence because of his four friends; they took him there not because they were going to gain and they took him there not knowing the outcome but because of their compassion for him.
There is a sense to which the Royal College of Nursing are modern day stretcher bearers. They enable patients and people to find access to technically efficient but compassionate care. Nurses and nursing are stronger and patients have benefited from their contribution over the last 100 years.
And yes just like the stretcher bearers the path is not always easy, hard work, frustration and persistence are characteristics that are required along with passion and compassion.
Having moved from healthcare into the church people often comment my life must be so different but central to all I have done and still do is a passion for people and wholeness and compassion. You can take the nurse out of nursing but never the nursing out of the nurse.
As we look back over the last 100 years much has changed and in celebrating we should also learn and look forward. I know that there are many pressures on nurses today and I hope that the RCN will continue to have a strong voice and above all champion not just technically efficient care but also compassionate care so that nurses have time to hold people’s hands, listen, and sit – the ordinary that make the extra ordinary difference.
It has been a privilege to continue to support the NHS as a non-executive director for the last 15 years and now as a member of council at Kings College London University and vice president of hospice care in Exeter. And like many nurses I carry with me all those patients and colleagues who I have worked with over the years and I am grateful for the support and contribution of the Royal College of Nursing.
So as we remember with thanks giving the stretcher bearers that have brought others into the presence of those who heal and we remember those whose lives have been transformed by nurses and we pray for them in the future.