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‘Wounded Healers With Hope’ – By Brother Ignatius Perkins, School of Nursing Chair

Brother Ignatius Perkins, OP, PhD, Professor and Chair of the School of Nursing

In our woundedness, we can become a source of life for others, (Nouwen, 1972 i)

We are wounded healers:  we enter into the lives of our patients often, alone with them, as they die from the coronavirus;

We are wounded healers: we accompany our colleagues in their care of the dying as well as their own deaths;

We are wounded healers: we bear the stigma of immeasurable pain of human suffering and dying as we stand before our patients, their families and our colleagues, filled with compassion, weeping, but with hands empty;

We are wounded healers: we experience a deep sense of abandonment, loneliness and failure because we are unable to rescue our patients and our colleagues from a disease not of their own making;

We are wounded healers: we find ourselves morally wounded because we are unable to stop the terrible decisions that must be made for patient care in the midst of this terrible disease;

We are wounded healers: each day we say good bye to our patients and colleagues, terrified to return home to our families knowing that we may carry illness and death to them –  fearful about returning to our centers of care – guilt of abandoning the sick when caring moments are desperately needed;

We are wounded healers with hope. We are calling for urgent help to be relieved of these terrible burdens so that our ineradicable covenant to care for the sick and one another with compassion, the very soul of our call to be healers, will be re-affirmed and reclaim human dignity and bring peace, healing, and hope to one another and to our world, especially the abandoned, unloved and the unwanted in our midst.

  • In the midst of these convulsive experiences and in solidarity with one another and our colleagues, we call on schools of the health professions, organizations, associations and Church groups to collaborate to:
  • Form listening sessions in order to share the wounds, the pain, multiples losses and anger we are experiencing and to reaffirm and implement the power of the trilogy of health care (human dignity, freedom and flourishing) among individuals and communities;
  • Provide comprehensive professional resources (psychological, emotional, physical, pastoral, ethical, social work) for our colleagues to help them journey through their experiences of grieving, anxiety, depression, those who have lost hope and self-confidence, death and reclaim confidence as instruments of healing and hope;
  • Implement strategies that will reach out especially to those have become isolated, withdrawn, feel abandoned, and have little reason to hope;
  • Establish local and regional interdisciplinary networks that provide long-term counseling, other services, and resources as we reclaim human dignity, freedom and promote human flourishing among all persons;
  • Collaborate with local and regional health care systems, our colleagues in the health professions, and civic leaders to construct a long term plan for continuing care and rehabilitation;

As wounded healers with hope, we bring to our world an elaborate and exhaustive array of experiences, competencies, and a legion of unparalleled experiences and expertise in education, administration, research across all domains of service to humanity. The profound virtuous act of the nurse as healer, the act that unites each of us as Fellows is embedded in the “promise of nursing,” the proclamation we all voiced when we dared to enter the world of nursing. This promise says:

Regardless of who you are, your gender, race, ethnicity, or religious persuasion, regardless of your illness or your life experiences; I am promising you my commitment that I will care with you; I will try to heal your pain, to ameliorate your suffering, to help you accept the limitations posed by the ravages of your illness.  I promise that I will accept your invitation to be with you when you are afraid, alone or dying; and to never abandon you along this journey. 

As wounded healers with hope, the largest segment of our nation’s health care workforce, amid the threats of the coronavirus, we must never allow our promise be compromised.  This is our vowed commitment to one another, to our colleagues, to the sick entrusted to our care, and to our nation and beyond.  Let us reclaim the power of the promise of nursing; let us help one another to be healed of this terrible threat to human dignity, freedom and human flourishing. In this journey together we will be freed to bring the promise of nursing to each other and to every person entrusted to our care.

Finally, we ask our Creator to protect us in our journey of healing and hope:

To bring strength, confidence and an enduring hope to each of us and to our colleagues;

  • To take time to care for ourselves and to listen to the voices in our own hearts;
  • To endow us with courage to remain faithful to the promise of nursing;
  • To care for our patients, their families, and our colleagues with compassion;
  • To bring healing to the sick, peace and comfort to the dying and their families;
  • To bring wisdom, compassion and confidence to our leaders;
  • To grant eternal rest to the dead; and
  • To comfort the mourners. Amen.

As ambassadors of hope, how successful we are in bringing healing to each of us as wounded healers, will determine how successful we are in living the promise of nursing in bringing healing and hope to all persons entrusted to our care, and to a suffering nation.

– (Nouwen, H.J.M. (1972).  The Wounded Healer.  New York: Image Books, Doubleday.)
– Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash