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The Sphere Of A Nurse Missionary

( Originally Published 1913 )

It may perhaps be well if we commence our consideration of the work falling to the lot of a nurse missionary by defining who is meant by this designation, the more so as there has been much confusion concerning the application of the title. By a nurse missionary we mean a Christian lady who has acquired a full nursing training, and who, possessing in addition the general qualifications essential to missionary work, decides to devote her life to the nursing side of Medical Missions. That description, it will be seen, places the work of nurse missionaries, just as is the case in the work of medical missionaries, upon a thoroughly qualified basis. They are not missionary ladies who have obtained a smattering of nursing or have become qualified in just one branch of the nursing profession. Such, we heartily acknowledge, render very important and useful service, and no want of appreciation is shown for their help, wherever it may find a needed sphere. It is, however, most advisable that by the title, nurse missionary, we should mean one definite grade of worker, and hence the restriction that has been indicated.

Then let us add the further point that by nurse missionaries are not meant those who are qualified to be placed in charge of any given medical mission. Some harm, we fear, has been done in the past by nurses being sent out with the loose idea that they might develop a medical work in the districts in which they are stationed. Placed in such a position, nurses have been called upon to treat very serious cases wholly beyond their skill and outside their province, with the result that instead of furthering the cause of the Mission they have imperilled it. Let them, of course, if they happen to be in a place where there is no doctor, by all means attend to those needs and conditions of the people with which they are competent to deal, doing all the good they possibly can, only let it never be that the rôle of a doctor is assumed. And instead of it being at all the practice for nurse missionaries to be stationed in places where there is no medical missionary, this should rather be regarded as the exception, and the rule should be that the nurse is directly associated with the work of a doctor. In such a way we venture to urge there will be secured the greatest efficiency and the finest results.

Passing next to the particular needs which claim the help of nurse missionaries, we find our attention directed to three points.

(a) Nurse missionaries are needed to undertake the nursing superintendence of mission hospitals.—It will appeal to all that the medical missionary cannot, by him or herself alone, effectively manage the nursing work of a hospital, in addition to bearing all the responsibility of its medical and surgical work. Neither time nor strength admit of this, nor can the doctor be expected to so ably see to the nursing details of a hospital as a nurse who has been specially trained for that work. Even, however, supposing that the medical missionary is most eminently fitted to do all that a nurse missionary could do, it is by no means the most economical course that his or her time should be so taken up. Manifestly the doctor should be kept free for all the multifarious claims that must rest upon one in that capacity, and the efficiency of the whole work promoted by the assistance of a fully qualified nurse. This view is borne out by the experience of medical missionaries all over the field, and increasingly is it being realised that nurse missionaries have a most fruitful sphere in undertaking responsibility for the nursing work of a mission hospital. The patients' diet, the details of their medical and surgical nursing, their preparation for surgical operations and the after care of such cases, the general nursing management of the hospital, etc., all render the assistance of a nurse missionary an invaluable asset to any mission hospital, and make her work one that is a magnificent second to that of the doctor.

(b) Nurse missionaries are needed to train native Christian girls to be nurses.—Here is a most obvious and necessary work, and one for which the help of a nurse missionary is of first importance. The work of nursing is one of the best and most useful vocations into which many of the native Christian girls can enter, and naturally their enlistment in that service is just what should be secured. But the essential preliminary is a thorough training, and to attain that there must be in the mission hospital a fully trained European nurse who can put these girl probationers through a, proper nursing course.

Hence the need and scope for a nurse missionary, for the work of which calling it will be readily appreciated nurse candidates cannot equip themselves too thoroughly on the professional side. In addition to having a full nursing qualification, they should obtain, wherever practicable, special experience in the nursing of eye cases and tropical diseases, and should obtain an obstetrical diploma. The value of a knowledge of simple midwifery is one to be particularly emphasised, both for the sake of training, and from all other points of view.

By devoting herself to training work, the nurse missionary can multiply her own efforts for the care of the suffering sick. She can mould young Christian girls in one of the most ideal of callings for them, and establish the future of the Medical Mission in this respect upon a sound and enduring basis. Is not such a programme enough to fire the ardour of possible nurse candidates here at home ?

(c) Nurse missionaries are needed to add to the evangelistic efficiency of the hospital, and increase its spiritual success.—No emphasis is too heavy to lay upon this point. The need is very clear, and to none more than to those engaged in the actual work. It is of paramount importance, if the spiritual results of mission hospitals are to be what they might be that there should be a large amount of individual work by the bedside. Yet how is the doctor to do all this single-handed ? How can he find the time, to speak of nothing else ? If, however, what he can do is supplemented by the careful earnest efforts of a nurse missionary, how greatly can the efficiency of the evangelistic work of the hospital be increased. If the nurse gets into individual touch with the patients, finds out their spiritual difficulties, and skilfully, by the help of the Holy Spirit, puts before them the plan of salvation, in how many more instances may not the hospital become a birthplace of souls, and a place of spiritual healing ?

All this, of course, naturally involves a special course of preparation at home before going out, and no nurse should go to the field without having had evangelistic training. What is indicated in Chapter IX. in regard to this aspect of the training of a missionary doctor should be, in its main bearings, hers as well. Then, too, how much her co-operation with the doctor in this work, and her example, may fire the native assistants and nurses with a like passion. It is not too much to say that to the nurse missionary there are spiritual opportunities not one whit less, in some cases even more, than those falling to the missionary doctor. And it is not possible to appeal too strongly for consecrated nurse candidates who will give themselves to God for this work.

We are led, therefore, to the conclusion that for young Christian girls who cannot take up a medical training, but who feel the call of Christ to the service of Medical Missions, there is open in missionary nursing a sphere of labour which is full of the most glorious possibilities. There are large stretches of the great Foreign Field where their tender skilful womanly ministry is all unknown. There are overworked doctors fighting a losing battle with both medical and spiritual efficiency in many a mission hospital, simply because no nurse missionaries have come to their aid. Veritable gold mines right in the hearts of men and women and children are scattered throughout the non-Christian world, which they may explore, and win back treasure for the Kingdom of Christ. Shall it ever be that with such potentialities the number of volunteers for this department of Medical Missions shall be only a handful instead of a regiment ?

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