I am not the Healer

Lydia Rice recently completed a two-month primary care rotation at Siloam as part of her family nurse practitioner training at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.  She writes…

I walked into the patient’s room, thankful for the interpreter beside me. However, negotiating a language barrier sometimes seems less intimidating than navigating cultural differences.

FNP student, Lydia Rice, consults her preceptor.

FNP student, Lydia Rice, consults her preceptor.

In this case, both potential obstacles were blessings. Having an interpreter allowed me to gather my thoughts between sentences.  Differing culturally gave me a unique perspective on this woman’s circumstance… and somehow allowed me to connect a little more with her heart.

We’ll call her Sara.  I met her less than half-way through my student nurse practitioner rotation at Siloam.  My preceptor had already told me a little about her history; in the clinic that day for a follow-up visit, she suffered not only from several chronic health conditions, but had also been plagued for years by depression, shame, and isolation. She had come to the U.S. from a very different culture over a decade before, but her family has returned to her home country, and she has experienced estrangement from her cultural community here.  In her deep isolation, she finds support only from her counseling services and her practitioners at Siloam.

Our conversation began with assessing her physical illness, but it quickly became apparent that the deeper, persistent emotional issues were causing the majority of her distress. She told me she prays and seeks spiritual comfort, but she lacks a community where she feels welcome and she voiced a void that her religion has not filled.  Beneath her striking traditional garb, her eyes reflected a haunting, hollow pain.  I wanted to do something, to fix it, to heal her.  We talked. I listened. We even prayed.  After quite some time, she left the clinic.  As she squeezed my hand in parting, I knew it had been an important encounter for both of us.  Yet I still felt so helpless.

Then my preceptor reminded me that only God can truly heal.  We can be witnesses to this healing, perhaps even play a role in it.  Yet we do not enact it.  And God is working in people’s lives outside of our small encounter or ability to affect them.  I pray that he is working in and healing this woman.  Because I cannot.  But – much as I would like to stubbornly pretend otherwise – I am not called to be the healer, only to carry her to Him.  And, perhaps, she taught me that only this Healer can heal me, too.

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