Saturday, June 20, 2009

Walking With Giants


and this is the fruit of it ... Vayikra 13:27

This is an incident which happened to me at work yesterday. Nothing more, nothing less.

One of our residents returned from the hospital following surgery. I went to interview her to collect clinical data for the work that I do and to determine whether or not her pain was under control. This resident has some dementia with periods of confusion sometimes. She is also seriously ill physically.

I introduced myself as a nurse from the MDS Office and informed her of my purpose there. Immediately after that, the resident told me that "they've been telling lies." Not quite sure what to do with that statement, I asked her, "who's been lying to you? What lies have you been told?"

She said, "they said I'll get well, that I'll heal. They're telling me lies."

I told her my professional opinion regarding her prognosis which I won't specifically disclose here to protect her identity. While her acute wounds will heal, her physical ability has been forever altered.

She said, "that's right. That's the truth." Then she started talking about healing and God, while I said nothing. I just listened to her as she expressed her feelings about these things and how she was thinking out loud how to accept her "lot in life."

When she had finished what she had been telling me about herself, and from my experience with the resident and her daughter believing her to be Christian or Catholic, I asked her if she would like us to contact a minister, priest, family friend or some other trusted person to come and talk with her about her these kinds of concerns. She said, "yes." Then I asked her if there was a specific person she would like us to contact.

She said she "once knew a Methodist minister, but he's not mine." Then all of a sudden she asked me a strange question, "what is the most ancient faith?"

Realizing that I was wearing my Jewish star of David pearl pendent and that the resident could clearly see it, acutely aware that the resident was sensitized to being "told lies" and needed me to be truthful with her as I saw the truth, and understanding her to be Christian or Catholic - I didn't want to offend her chosen faith. Considering all these things, I decided that it was safe and inoffensive to answer her with "the most ancient faith would be Judaism, with Christianity and Islam daughter faiths of that faith." In my mind, given that she could see my Jewish star, this answer would not cast confusion and doubt into her mind that I was being truthful with her at that moment nor would it be offensive to her own faith by accurately noting the historical connection between the three major Abrahamic faiths.

I didn't feel it necessary to add anything or to clarify my statement with my understanding of how I actually believe the 'most ancient faith' to have existed in ancient times or on its many forms as it exists today, including Jewitchery. Had I chosen to elaborate, I would have certainly included my ideas about witchcraft and Goddess. But I didn't go there because that would have been more than she needed to hear.

She said, "that's right. I'd like to talk to a rabbi."

Now what was I supposed to do? I told her that there was no regular rabbi in our little town, which there isn't. There is a part-time rabbi who comes here from another state to conduct services at the shul once a month. I indicated that there might be a rabbi in a bigger city about 30 miles from here. I asked her if she wanted us to see if a rabbi in that city would be willing to come and visit with her? She said "yes."

Then she said, "be sure to tell him the truth about me."

I said, "other than to make the contact, it is not our place to tell the rabbi any details at all about you. It is your place to tell the rabbi the truth about yourself."

She nodded and said, "yes, that's good." Her whole countenance relaxed and appeared relieved.

I finished gathering the data I had to gather, and as I left, I told the resident that I would make her request known immediately, but that it might be next week before an appointment could be set up with an out-of-town rabbi. She said "okay, that's fine."

I left and went to tell the nurse who was assigned to her care that day and to inform social services of the resident's request, as making such contacts for the resident is not within the scope of my job responsibilities. Making the contact myself could be twisted into something it's not precisely because I am Jewish and she is not known to be - in no way did I manipulate this resident toward making the request she did. In fact, I became scared for my own job when she requested to speak with a rabbi.

Anyway, I was told by the resident's nurse that the resident at some point in her life had had a Jewish boyfriend and that fact may be related to why she requested to see a rabbi. The nurse called the resident's daughter, who is also her POA (power of attorney), and then informed me that the resident's daughter said she (the daughter) would handle her mother's request.

By the time the nurse got back to me with confirmation of her contact with the resident's daughter, I also had informed the director of social services, the administrator and the director of nursing of the resident's request to cover myself as having delivered the request to those with the job responsibility, and thereby the authority, to handle the resident's request. I also added the issue to resident's clinical care plan under the problem statement - potential for spiritual distress. I have done everything within the scope of my authority to do to honor this resident's request - nothing more, nothing less.

The request has been delivered. It remains to be seen what becomes of it.