Cura Personalis means caring for the whole nurse as well!

A reflection for National Nurses Week, May 6–12, 2022

By Dr. Kathy Coffey-Guenther, senior advancement officer for alumni spirituality

Recently, Dr. Jill Guttormson, Marquette’s Acting Dean of Nursing and associate professor, along with Kelly Calkins, Co-PI; Jacklynn Fitzgerald (Psychology); nursing students Holly Losurdo and Danielle Loonsfoot; and UWM colleague Natalie McAndrews, published an article in the March 2022 issue of the American Journal of Critical Care exploring the impact of Covid 19 on critical care nurses across the US. The survey sought to study the experiences of these nurses through the pandemic to date.

Of the 498 completed surveys, 285 of the nurses answered the open-ended questions which allowed the nurses to speak to how the pandemic had affected and impacted them on personal, professional, and communal levels. Beyond that, the open-ended questions allowed nurses to share any gifts, learnings, or blessings they received from their “front-line” work with the pandemic.

The research results our Marquette nursing colleagues found are very powerful in providing a portrait of stress and trauma that many health care professionals experienced when providing care, and heart, to such a fragile and dying population of critical care patients. The nurses who responded to the survey spoke to the incredible medical needs, and limitations, the nurses had related to the ability to help heal and cure such an unknown and fast- growing deadly disease. Beyond that, the impact and risk to their own health and worries about the impact their work may have on their own families, given the contagious nature of Covid, continually led to deep anxiety and moral dilemmas related to their need to take care of patients and their fear of harming their own loved ones.

The nurses surveyed spoke to the continual pain and loss of seeing patient’s family members, who may not have been allowed in to speak with their dying patient in person due to Covid restrictions, have to say their final goodbyes over a screen being held by a nurse. Being present day in and day out as part of such intimate and painful realities of so many families took a toll on these nurses, as it would on any caring person.

Lastly, the nurses spoke to the “silver lining” found in this time as they developed deeper relationships and community with all the health care team members they were working with. They noted that it was hard for anyone who hadn’t had the experience to truly understand what they had gone through, and would likely still go through, years after the survey results were collected.

Several years ago, the leaders and faculty in the College of Nursing met to establish the elements of “the Marquette Nurse” based on the mission and tradition of an Ignatian, Jesuit and Catholic education and formation in the College. While the training of new nurses was based on excellence and competence in academic, research, and clinical skills, the Marquette Nurse must also be able to vision and imagine beyond “what is” to “what could be” through an Ignatian lens.

As this group found, studying the mission statement of the university and the College invites the Marquette Nurse to make space, always, for Cura Personalis, the call to care for the whole person.

The Marquette Nurse, from their first classes as a first-year student, is trained to see a whole person who is much more valued and complex than their disease, pathology, or whatever need is bringing them for medical care at that moment. The Marquette Nurse is trained to see each person they treat as a whole person, as someone who is loved and valued just because they exist as a sacred human being. The Marquette Nurse is trained to see each person they encounter in their health care setting as a person who lives within the culture and context of their varied identities, locations, experiences, and realities of the larger scope of their lives. The Marquette Nurse is trained to see each person they are privileged to treat as a complex human being worthy of dignity and care, worthy of good health, worthy of excellent care regardless of resources or privilege, meeting each patient as they are with the gifts our nurses are trained with.

As we can see from the survey and study that Dr. Guttormson and her colleagues developed, the findings of their research survey included the experiences of front-line critical care nurses in a pandemic and demonstrated just such care for the individual patient. Beyond that, the survey that our Marquette Nursing colleagues developed remembered that our nurses, too, are part of the call to Cura Personalis, that our nurses, too, share the same need for care, dignity, self-care, and support that all deserve.

This study helped to serve as a larger frame and vision of the art and practice of nursing in excellence, a nursing that lives and breathes Cura Personalis, a practice of clinical and moral excellence that encompasses the vocation of the Marquette Nurse.

Happy Nurses Week to all our Marquette Nurses everywhere, both on campus beyond campus! And Thank You!

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