May 15 – Nurse as Miracle Worker

Thursday  May 15  —  Nurse as Miracle Worker

The patient wounded in their narrow beds
Welcome me and smile as I go by
Down the long wooden buildings where they lie
Wan weary rows of helpless haggard heads —
Mysterious burning eyes that seem to gaze
From a great distance, gaze but do not know
Why they are glad to see me come and go.
Sometimes with feeble hands as in a daze
They beckon me, poor things that vaguely grope
Out of great darkness toward a distant light;
And from the unknown woman dressed in white
Seem in some strange way to gather hope —
They do not know that in this shadowed place
It is your light they see upon my face.

Mary Bordon  (Sometime during World War I?)


In today’s Writer’s Almanac, Garrison Keillor introduced me to Mary Bordan, a flamboyant millionaire heiress who, dissatisfied with the standard of care for wounded soldiers, used her money to create a mobile field hospital that moved along the hell-hole death traps called battle lines during World War One.  A messy, high profile life as an elegant Parisian Salon hostess, Keillor tells us that  “She is best remembered for The Forbidden Zone (1929), a memoir of her work as a nurse on the front lines.”    Flamboyant or not, Bordan recognized a nurse’s central grace:  to follow wounded and desparate people into the heart of their fears and pain, knowing that damaged people “seem in some strange way to gather hope”  from fearless, competent companionship.  This bold conviction continues to live at the heart of nursing education in the 21st century — “no good science, no competence   ;;;   no fearless tenderness, no miracle of healing.”

Perhaps Bordan’s poem caught my attention because, during a wonderful half-day retreat yesterday, as we talked about many UDM commitments, nursing caught our attention during one discussion.    A memorable quote from a CHP faculty member:  “I interviewed a young woman and asked her to tell me what nurses do.  She could not describe what nurses do.  I suggested, that if she wants to become a nurse she should first get a nurse’s aide job in a hospital for a while and then come back and tell me what she’s learned.” (well, almost a quote, not verbatim).  When we teach students to find the heart of the profession they study, any discipline, we open the world to them.  I am proud to work in a university with a great nursing school named after the Founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley.

For UDM’s McAuley Health Center over on the East Side, see:

Have a blest day


john sj

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