Note from Pastor Mike –This post is part of a 6 week series focused on faith and work; more specifically, how our faith affects the way we work and how we view our work. I thought there would be no better way to explore this topic than by asking members of Calvary about their experience. I have conducted and condensed these interviews, while doing my best not to put my words into the mouths of others.
Becky Johnson is currently working at Holy Cross as a Registered Nurse (RN-BSN). Her area of specialization is caring for patients with some form of cancer as an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN). She has been a nurse in a hospital setting for 44 years and has been at Holy Cross for 37 of those years.
How Has Your Faith Influenced Your Career Track?
I actually went to nursing school because my grandmother wanted me to. But looking back on my career I have realized how nursing has changed my life. For one, I wouldn’t have met my husband Carl if I had not gone to nursing school. I also feel that I have been shaped through the interactions I have had with patients. I do my best to care for every one of them the same way I would care for a member of my family. I love my profession and cannot imagine doing anything else.
I grew up in a Lutheran church in a small town in West Virginia and I never thought growing up I would leave West Virginia. Now I am serving people from around the world and living in a metropolitan area. One of the surprising things is that so often now I am meeting Christians from around the world – especially from many parts of Africa. Because of our shared faith I realize how many similarities I have with people from different parts of the world with a huge variety of backgrounds.
Especially in recent years many of the patients I help care for are from other countries receiving health care here when they might not have it back home. It is also becoming more common for patients we care for to be uninsured. I have learned a lot being in contact with this wide variety of people and it has reminded me about the inequalities that exist in the world. We take our health care for granted sometimes, but I have realized that many people simply do not have the same opportunities or hope for health-care that many of us have.
When caring for patients, I never know about someone’s economic standing. When they are in a room I am assigned to, or as they receive treatment, they are all equal at that point and my job is to care for everyone in the same way. Once someone is in the system, they get the same good quality care as everyone else. In this way it seems there is an unexpected type of justice and equality being worked out in the healthcare system.
You have been around suffering a great deal. How has that influenced your outlook on life and your faith?
I have worked with many, many families going through the challenges of illness and the great uncertainties cancer can bring. I have found that the best thing I can do for them is to be completely honest and let them know that it may not turn out the way they want. While I am able to speak words of compassion and hoping for the best for them, I also have to walk with families through the emotional challenges of not knowing the way it will end up. I believe my faith has helped me to be comfortable in helping many patients and their families through the dying process as well.
This experience allows for a great opportunity to share with them a small piece of my faith and the hope that I hold onto because of what I believe. I have also become more understanding and tolerant of other faith backgrounds because I have spent time with so many people from different backgrounds.
There are other challenges associated with the nursing profession. I realize from time to time that I am so intent on giving to other people and caring for others that I forget to take care of myself. Sometimes we don’t want to admit that caring for other people and especially walking with them in suffering takes something from us. It is a sacrifice. I also know the long hours have been hard on me and my family and I have wondered if I have taken something from my family by serving others at work. I worry about this sometimes, but hold onto my faith and pray that God will allow me to continue serving others while finding time to spend with my family and other interests.
Recently you attended a faith based seminar which helps certify Faith Community Nurses. What possibilities do you see as you have learned about this?
It is something I have known about for a long time, but recently I have explored it and it provides ideas for connection my professional experience and abilities with the Churches desire to reach out and serve the community. I am not sure yet what might develop, but there are opportunities to share health-care with those in the community, whether it is doing free blood pressure checks, or health education classes, or some other community service. I hope that as I learn more there might be opportunities in the future for Calvary to serve the community with medical care and help in some way.