Listen: Gabrielle Macaulay chats to Laura Bennett
During the COVID-19 Crisis, the wellbeing of medical professionals has been a hot topic.
From the direct risks of working with infected patients, to the personal side effects of long shifts and additional workload, healthcare workers are under a greater strain than ever – increasing their need for holistic care.
That’s where the Nurses Christian Fellowship (NCF) and their focus on both the physical and spiritual side of health comes in.
In operation since 1913, the NCF (formerly Nurses Christian Movement), originally started as a way for Christians working in the medical field to connect and support one another, and have Bible study around their fluctuating lifestyles.
“[During the World Wars] nurses also lived in together,” said NCF Australia President Gabrielle Macaulay, “they often couldn’t get to church, and so [the NCF] sort of started as a support network to care for each other… and to look after one another’s spiritual growth journeys while looking after our patients.
“Now we operate nationally, and connect with [other Christian medical professionals] through workshops, seminars and conferences… all wanting to support each other and think about how we take our faith to work, and care more holistically for our patients as well as each other.”
Connection Needed More Than Ever
In the current global pandemic, the worldwide reach of NCF and its local hubs has been acutely felt, with Gabrielle and her team working directly with Christians in New York, London and further afield who reach out for prayer.
“There has been an enormous outpouring of support for each other internationally,” said Gabrielle. “[Samaritans Purse nurses in NYC] will send me messages asking for prayer, and it’s lovely being able to shoot a message back and say, ‘I’ve got your back, you’re doing great, hang in there’.
“Although on the surface [this pandemic] has been urgent, and critical and desperate, underneath there’s this swelling of support through Zoom meetings and the like – it’s been quite a dichotomy from our perspective.”
Praying Every Day
Gabrielle shared how in New York City – one of the world’s largest Coronavirus hotspots – nurses in the Samaritan’s Purse Emergency Field Hospital are praying daily with one another as part of their routine practice before clocking in.
“They start every shift with a prayer meeting,” Gabrielle said, “There’s a lot of spiritual care for each other – and to be honest I think that’s the backbone of how you keep turning up to 12-hour shifts night after night.”
They have also found a unique way to lift the spirits of colleagues and patients who are continuously confronted by the virus’ severity.
“They have a bell over there,” said Gabi, “and when someone’s well enough to be discharged from the hospital and they walk out, they ring the bell and they all – as much as you can, stop to celebrate that there’s one who [recovered].”
“There’s a lot of people who come in and that’s the time where… suddenly they decide that there could be a God, and it’s important for us to honour that side of their healing.”
The NCF doesn’t only operate in times of crisis, but as a continual point of spiritual support for patients and staff, which has proven benefits in medical care.
“There’s a lot of evidence-based research now,” said Gabrielle, “that shows that if we care for our patients more holistically… and care for them spiritually in their pathway of healing, it helps them recover better, and quicker.
“When a patient’s in Resus (the resuscitation area), it’s ok to bend down and ask them, ‘what’s keeping you strong right now? This really matters to me and I value your spiritual journey in this story’. Because really there’s a lot of people who come in and that’s the time where, if they’ve never heard of a God or not interested in God, suddenly they decide that there could be a God, and it’s important for us to take that moment and honour that side of their healing.”
Little Miracles On the Job
Having worked in ICU’s, Midwifery and now in the Emergency Department Gabrielle’s had numerous opportunities to apply her faith to her role, but recalls one instance that particularly struck her: a woman who’d been flown in from a property with a severe injury, was losing a lot of blood and was unusually uncooperative with the nurses.
“I remember praying and thinking, ‘Lord there’s something else going on, what’s happening here?’ said Gabrielle. “I felt like the Lord said, ‘Just ask her’, and so in amongst all the white noise [of the hospital] and all the bells and whistles and orders that were going on around her, I leant right into her ear and said, ‘What’s bothering you most at the moment?’
“She looked at me with the tears in her eyes and said, ‘Nobody can feed my dogs on the farm tonight’… so we organized for her dogs to be fed. And suddenly this lady haemodynamically (relating to blood circulation) improved; her blood pressure rose, her pulse calmed down, her respiration rate evened out and she was far more stable.”
It’s one instance among many that gives Gabrielle a great appreciation for her role and the value of the NCF.
“If people know of Christian nurses,” said Gabrielle, “get them onto our website to check it out, and join in this groundswell of support that’s available to them.”