Saturday, May 10, 2014

of nursing and mothering

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This is Nurses Week. The one week a year when we stop and reflect upon the women and men who dedicate their lives to the care of the sick, the prevention of illness, and the development of health policy through nursing.

Nursing is one of the most misunderstood professions.
This is because much of what nurses do is invisible; it takes place within the mind of the nurse. Nurses observe patients, figure out what they need, whether with and without technical equipment. They see everything from noticing and smoothing wrinkles from under a patient, to locating a neighborhood where lead paint pollutes the dirt where children play, and advocating for clean-up. Nursing is seamless; there is no disconnect between the nurse's care, and the patient's experience.

Medicine and most of the healing arts are goal oriented, and are distinguished one from the other by their interventions: one does surgery, another dispenses medication, another does massage or reiki.

Nursing is not like these. Nursing is seamless vigilance; it is deciding what is necessary in the moment, being with the person, with the patient as they sail on through sickness on their journey  towards health ebbing and flowing. Health is about how well we live within our changing environment. The patient's limitation in caring for self is the determining factor in how the nurse will be with the patient. Health is not based upon circumstances; it is dependent upon how we living beings respond or adapt to circumstances. Nurses are our allies picking up the slack, sometimes for perfect strangers in the most intimate of ways.

It is appropriate that Nurses’ Week leads up to Mother’s Day. Florence Nightingale saw nursing as women’s work. “Every woman is a nurse.”, She said. Nursing is an extension of the work of nurturing life.

Taken as a whole, women are traditionally found in positions where their purpose is to support the birth, growth, and life of a person, a place, or a thing.
Whether we are serving as mothers, teachers, domestics, herbalists, village healers, or community health workers, veterinary technicians, nursing assistants, teachers aids, secretaries, or nurses, women’s work requires attention to the hundreds of changes that occur in daily life.

Woman’s work varies in the amount of attention and action required moment by moment by environmental flux, both internal and external to the entity for which we are caring.
Women’s work is so basic to life that we don’t even recognize that it is occurring,in our homes, our offices, our gardens, our hospitals, or classrooms, our forests. Women’s work is the web of nurturance that sustains.

Rianne Eisler described it as partnership and indeed it is. In my experience and my research it is not the man that is the partner of woman, it is the life for which she is caring. Together, the nurse and the life force with the support of men  partner to keep life going forward.

Men’s work is to, build the shelter, fix the plow, the car or the body; slaughter the cow for food or chop down the tree for wood, watch out for the hostile intruder who might disturb the flow of life.  

The work of men that is assistive to the continuous work of nurturing life not the other way around. Men’s work, is the model for the healing arts. It is goal oriented with a beginning a middle and an end.

Over millennia the work of men became dominant. Growing in status,  without awareness of their effect on life itsself, men produced and produced until like cancer the products of men’s work metatastized. Disconnected from life they have become the enemies of future life. Growth unbridled and for its own sake, whether in nature, in society, or in economics, leads to death.

So as we celebrate Nurses’ Week and Mother’s Day it is my fervent wish that day by day, we see more clearly, love more dearly, and protect more fully this miracle of life that is our Home. May women’s work be seen for its essential contribution to our continuance as a species, and may men’s work continue to develop only in those ways that sustain life for all beings here on Earth.

1 comment:

LT said...

For the longest time nursing was viewed as "women's work so it wasn't valued as it should have been. Now with so many men joining the field it is becoming so much more valued and understood. Nurses have such a difficult job. I am always grateful for what they do. Without them we would all be up the creek without a paddle.