This year, I began my first semester of college at Creighton University, a Jesuit college in Omaha, as a student in the direct entry nursing school.
So far, despite the rigorous courses and the high stress that every college student is bound to experience, I love it. But very soon after I began this semester, I found that my classes and education was very different from those of my friends who are also going into similar medical professions at other schools.
I noticed that unlike my classes and professors, other schools don’t necessarily focus on the idea of a patient being a person. Instead, they focus on someone being a body. And while there are bound to be differences in every college with how they teach, it seems clear to me, that the Catholic faith has played a huge part in not only taking care of people in need of medical attention but respecting their human dignity while doing so.
I was told during the first week of school that in the United States, one in three hospital beds is in a Catholic hospital. Originally, this fact shocked me. But after looking at what the Catholic faith is, I really shouldn’t have been surprised.
I have always known that my faith is led by and made up of caretakers. Almost all of my role models who taught me and guided me to discovering my love of helping others came from my church community. In fact, our very faith is built around helping others and doing good. And it is because of my faith that I wanted a career in helping and caring for those who need it.
When we look at just how amazing our Church is at providing for those in need, it’s no surprise that we play such a large part in medicine. In retrospect, it seems rather important that Catholicism is so involved in medicine considering the fact that those who need medical treatment are usually the people who need the most help.
As Catholics, we are all called by God to help heal the soul of others and be there for those in need. Medical professions are one way some people are called to heal not only someone’s body, but their soul as well.
No drug, surgery, treatment or cure will ever heal someone’s soul and that is exactly what a nurse and doctor should be there for. Saints, disciples of Christ and even Jesus himself were all people who took care of others and healed them of both physical and spiritual illnesses because they knew the kind of pain that comes from both ailments.
As important as it is to make sure someone is physically well again, it is just as important to make sure their spiritual health is well too. Having someone who can hold your hand and support you through medical hardships is what helps people heal completely.
It needs to be a universal understanding that a person’s dignity and soul needs to be taken care of in a hospital by all medical professionals.
I once had a teacher who told me that medicine does not have a religion. This statement has stuck with me over the past few months as I have been studying medicine more closely.
The more I have thought about it, the more it has confused me. This particular teacher, being a retired doctor who worked for more than 25 years, did not have a particular faith that he followed. He claimed that he never really believed in a god, only in science. As an oncologist, he often saw his patients die very slow and painful deaths, something that I assume always tortured him. He saw a lot of pain and suffering among his patients and despite being there for them and trying to help in any medical way he could, there are always going to be people who don’t survive.
What this teacher failed to see was that while medicine might not have a religion, many caregivers who focus on the human dignity and beauty of each patient’s life do.
Ardyn Townzen is a freshman at Creighton University in Omaha. St. Stephen Church in Bentonville is her home parish.
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