Helen McGee is the President of the National Association of Catholic Nurses-Canada. As we approach World Day of the Sick on Sunday, February 11, she reflects on the special vocation of nurses and how the organization helps to foster this important work.
1. In light of the World Day of the Sick on Feb. 11, Pope Francis invites us to reflect on the fact that “it is precisely through the experience of fragility and illness that we can learn to walk together according to God’s style of closeness, compassion and tenderness.” How do you witness this through your vocation as a nurse?
Nursing involves the promotion of health and the assessment, care and treatment of health conditions so that patients reach or maintain optimal function. In busy health care settings, nurses are challenged to set priorities, administer treatment safely, communicate effectively with other members of the healthcare team, and document patients' response to care.
Whether we provide care in hospitals or community settings, we establish therapeutic relationships by accompanying our patients, often when they are ill or fragile. We encourage our members to participate in prayer and the sacraments to nurture awareness of God's closeness, compassion and tenderness in the context of fragility and suffering. In the words of Blessed Hanna Chrzanowska, our vocation is “to help those who are suffering to carry their cross, and through them to help Christ.”
2. What is the mission of the National Association of Catholic Nurses-Canada?
Our association aims to support and strengthen the vocation of nurses. We seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we encourage nurses to align their personal lives and professional practice with Catholic teaching. We recognize our profession as a vocation anchored in the Word and nourished through the sacraments that allows us to bear witness to the presence of Christ. We are affiliated with Catholic nurses around the world through CICIAMS.
3. Why was there a need for NACN-Canada – and how was that need made greater through the stressors of living through a pandemic?
NACN-Canada launched in 2018 because of nurses’ moral distress regarding the Carter decision. We needed the company of other Catholic health professionals and we wanted to participate in public discourse because of Carter’s impact.
During the pandemic while we were busy caring for our patients under strained conditions, the federal government passed legislation that would allow patients with severe and persistent mental illness to access medically induced death based on mental illness alone. The stressful work conditions at that time included covering the workload for nurses who were ill or retired early, and moral distress regarding COVID regulations. Health care professionals also left teams during the pandemic when medically induced death encroached on their practice.
4. What activities and projects is NACN-Canada involved with -- and how can nurses get involved?
For more information, check out https://catholicnurses.ca for links and event details.