The under-appreciated dignity of hospital work

Kiem wiped me when I couldn't wipe myself. No big deal.

Kiem wiped me when I couldn’t wipe myself. No big deal.

After three weeks in a hospital, I must say, the people who work here are among the most amazing in the world. That goes for everyone from nurses to technicians, to aids, to therapists and even volunteers. Maybe this isn’t true everywhere, and I just got lucky, but I feel like it’s more the nature of the job and the type of people who are motivated to do it day in and day out. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be here.

These are people who care about people and they deal with us at our worst. As soon as we are better, we leave. Still there was always a smile, a cheery voice, and a word of encouragement. But by far the most important thing I noticed is how everyone was treated with dignity. Everyone mattered. And it never mattered whether the job was undignified, the person never was.

Many times I was in humiliating situations and no one made me feel as if there was anything out of the ordinary with me. The worst was a few days after surgery when I became constipated due to the pain medication they gave me, so they gave me other medication to reverse that trend, which it did — a little too far in the other direction — and most of what I had in me ended up in my bed. That’s when two nurses came and literally changed my diapers. Talk about humiliating! And yet they went about their business as if they did this every day (maybe they do) chatting pleasantly with each other and with me without ever letting on that I was in an embarrassing situation. In fact, I never felt embarrassed my whole time here. I felt I was important and everyone wanted me well.

I think there’s something to be said here about what God thinks of us and how He wants us to treat others.

  1. God loves each one of us equally and completely.
  2. We are each dignified in that we bear His image.
  3. God wants us well.
  4. He has to clean up our messes.
  5. It may be humiliating, but then His Son was humiliated on the cross.
  6. Once you’ve lived through the humiliation of your own messes, other people’s messes don’t matter to you. Grace for you means grace for them. That’s grace turned outward.
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11 Responses to The under-appreciated dignity of hospital work

  1. Oh, you are soooo right. I watched the dedication and determination of my sis-in-law’s docs/nurses when she had a deadly infection. So many people prayed for her. Her doc stayed up all night researching and ordering a specific “last chance” antibiotic which literally saved her life. She often goes back by the hospital to say thank you to everyone who took care of her. God puts some amazing people in these careers!

  2. bobenearSeattle says:

    It’s all about dignity.
    At the few autopsies I’ve been privileged to observe I’ve always been impressed at how the Medical Examiners and Pathologists treat lifeless bodies in a professional dignified manner.
    Even after physical death, despite the necessity of cutting through the flesh and bone of a fully-exposed corpse, the person on the table was deliberately treated with dignity and compassion.
    It’s too bad that many of us don’t treat the living with the same sense of respect.

    kfd&p (above) stated it so accurately: God puts some amazing people in these careers!

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    As I read today’s Catch a few tears rolled out of my eyes – for the thx, respect and shear gratitude I have 4 the many Doctors, Nurses, Therapist, Volunteers and even a janitor that always gave me a big smile and a hello. While in hospital from my 2nd stroke (and last one I’ll have too!)

    So I can empathizes a bit w/ you, Pastor John… 🙂

  4. thanks John for your words–as a retired Home Nurse you do the work you love–each person is a priviledge to care for [much as God cares for each one of us] One expression given to me long ago was most of the medical staff are “Jesus with skin on”. Because He first loved us….nothing special just loved!! It wasn’t suppose to be like this we all know, & it won’t be when Jesus comes back either!! May God give you a quick recovery & good health

  5. Celia Hall says:

    Nurses and other hospital workers are dedicated and wonderful. We are blessed to have them take such good care of us.

  6. Colleen says:

    Like I always use to say to folks, that if you ever want to find God visit a hospital, because He is always there! I worked in a Cancer Care Hospital, a Clinic, and a Regular Hospital and everyone of the employees are great!

  7. Tim says:

    Great thoughts, hopefully the worst is behind you, so to speak.

  8. Skyler says:

    Love the beauty, simplicity and honesty in these words John. The tears are flowing as I remember how the nurses and volunteers cared for my Dad when he was in hospital before he went home to Heaven. I am also tearing up being able to hear your voice again brother. Welcome back!!

  9. zoodad10 says:

    Hi John. Rick Cruse here from PBC days. Just came upon your site the other day. Thanks for this important subject about women and men who do the things you describe here. I work now as a trauma chaplain at a Level One Trauma Center. It’s my privilege to work alongside such people every day. Then are they provide, whether assuring in a surgical procedure or cleaning up vomit, they just keep giving. Nothing gives them greater joy than providing care that leads to recovery. And a word of gratitude to them means a great deal. I pray that your own health is being restored.

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