By Megan Kilpatrick
May 17, 2016 | Portland, Oregon

I have had the privilege of observing the Church and Society 2 Committee during General Conference. The discussions have been everything that church isn’t supposed to be, and my heart has hurt for those who feel that hurt much more deeply than I could ever recognize.

Megan Kilpatrick
Megan Kilpatrick

But my post isn’t about those discussions.

During the end of first day of committee work, the committee chair fainted. Thankfully he was already sitting down, and there was myself (RN) and two doctors in the room. EMS was called, and he was taken to the hospital for evaluation and later released, albeit watching his health much more closely.

This man is from Kansas. I don’t think I have much in common with him, or believe many of the same things. But when people noticed he was down, it was like a switch flipped and I went into “nurse mode”. It’s a trained response–from experience, unfortunately–and I ran up to the front of the room as fast as I could.

As a nurse, I don’t get to determine who I care for based on how much they look like me or how much we have in common. I follow the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. Recently update in 2015, it gives guidance for how nurses should act and prioritize on matters of nursing ethics. It’s separated into different provisions and have interpretive statements so that nurses might understand how these provisions apply to their daily practice.

Here are the first four, in their entirety:

  • The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth, and unique attributes of every person.
  • The nurse’s primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community, or population.
  • The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.
  • The nurse has authority, accountability, and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.

Taken together, these statements are crystal clear: I am obligated to care for, advocate for, and protect my patients. Full stop. Period. My primary commitment is to them, whoever they are, whatever they believe, wherever they come from. Moreover, I am held ultimately responsible for the nursing practice I provide–and it clearly states that substandard or anything less than my best care is not acceptable.

It breaks my heart that my profession is more ethical than my church. During General Conference I have witnessed or heard stories of politicking, coercion, and voting fraud. At church! At church….

It is not the rules that bind us together as a people of God. Nor is it the Washington State Nurse Practice Act that binds me together with my colleagues. It’s the Spirit, integrity, care and love for each other that define us as a people of God and people of the United Methodist Church.

Every single day at work, I see nurses struggle with the complexities of caring for patients’ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. They truly wrestle with doing the right thing for their patients, even in extremely difficulty situations sometimes. I hope and pray that we, as a church, can follow the same example.

Megan Kilpatrick is the mother of a very rambunctious toddler, other half to her husband, and Clinical Nurse Specialist (RN) who helps nurses reach their fullest potential. She spends most days juggling, putting out fires, and walking on tightropes, but in her spare time she likes to cook, craft, and get outside.

Image Credit: “First Aid Kit” by Flickr user DLG Images.

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