Bless the Nurses - Kate Bowler

Bless the Nurses with Christie Watson

00:00 00:00


Bless the Nurses

with Christie Watson

At the core of nursing is the ability to love a stranger, to care indiscriminately. Christie Watson was a nurse in the UK for 20 years before she began teaching nurses. But when COVID-19 hit, she knew she needed to stand with her colleagues. So she put on her scrubs once again. In this moving conversation, Kate and Christie discuss the cost of COVID on healthcare workers, chaplains, and those who can’t be by their loved ones’ side when they need it most. If you are a nurse, know a nurse, or have been cared for by one before, this one is for you.

Kate Bowler

Christie Watson

Christie Watson was a registered pediatric nurse for twenty years. She spent most of her career in pediatric intensive care before becoming a resuscitation officer, which involved teaching and clinical work on hospital-wide crash teams. Her first novel, Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, won the Costa First Novel Award and her second novel, Where Women Are Kings, was also published to international critical acclaim. She has two non-fiction books: The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story and The Courage to Care. She lives in London and writes full time.

Show Notes

Discussion questions for the conversation between Christie and Kate can be found, here. 

Connect with Christie on her Instagram, her Twitter, and on her website.

Christie has written a number of beautiful books that you can find linked here: Tiny Sunbirds Far Away, Where Women are Kings, The Language of Kindness, and her latest book The Courage to Care: A Call for Compassion.

Learn more about the UK’s Minister of Loneliness position formed in 2018, here.

This article by Christie describes in more detail her decision to return to nursing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Want to start using reflective practice? Use this tool as a place to start.

If this episode piqued your interest in the idea of loneliness, check out our episode of Everything Happens with guest speaker US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who studies the public health crisis of loneliness.



Kate Bowler:                         Hi, I’m Kate Bowler, and this is Everything Happens. Look, the world loves us when we are good, better, best. But this is a podcast for when you want to stop feeling guilty that you’re not living your best life now. We’re not always having the juicing spree of our lives. I used to have my own delusion, a living, my best life now. I’m a Duke professor, wine and cheese enthusiast, wife and mom, Instagram gold. Then I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. That was four years ago. And I’m still here. And now I get it. Life is a chronic condition. The self-help and wellness industry will try to tell you that you can always fix your life. Eat this and you won’t get sick. Lose this weight and you’ll never be lonely. Believe with your whole heart and God will provide. Keep this attitude and the money is yours. But I’m here to look into your gorgeous eyes and say, hey, there are some things you can fix and some things you can’t. And it’s okay that life isn’t always better. We can find beauty and meaning and truth, but there’s no cure to being human. So let’s be friends on that journey. Let’s be human together.

Kate Bowler:               We don’t reach far in our minds for examples of the bravery of nurses and hospital workers right now. Many of my family and friends are nurses, emergency room nurses, home care nurses, public health nurses. And during those first few weeks of covid, these frontline health care workers realized something that the rest of us may not have, that there wasn’t enough masks and protective gear to go around. There are people close to me who were even told by their bosses not to wear masks so they could ration them and then they sent them off to care for the sick and the fragile without any protection of their own. Nursing is demanding work, it demands that you care, but when covid hit being a nurse meant that you would have to put the lives of strangers above your safety and that of your family. We all heard those stories, the ones where a hospital worker comes home and strips down at the door or sleeps in the garage and showers to scrub their skin raw. These are the absurdly ordinary sacrifices of our medical professionals, and I’m so grateful to be talking to one such person today. She says that the core of nursing is that very thing, the ability to love a stranger, the ability to care indiscriminately. Christie Watson was a registered pediatric nurse in England for 20 years. She spent most of her career in pediatric intensive care in large national health service hospitals before becoming a resuscitation officer, which involved teaching and clinical work on hospital wide crash teams. Christie is also a professor and was recently awarded an honorary doctor of letters for her contribution to nursing and the arts by the University of East Anglia. And she is the author of gorgeous books, including The Language of Kindness and the Courage to Care. Christie, I am so glad to be speaking with you today.

Christie Watson:            Oh, I’m so excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me on.

K.B.:                          You didn’t always want to be a nurse. And to top it off, you were more than mildly terrified of blood. How did you first get into this business?

C.W.:                        You’re absolutely right. And funnily enough, I’m still quite squeamish. I find it really hard. It there’s something graphic or violence on television. Or if I’m reading a description in a book that’s particularly bloody, then I find my stomach goes and I have to walk away from it, which is really bizarre because I’ve been a nurse for so long you’d think by now that I’m used to it. But I fell into nursing, I really was quite a precocious, a bit arrogant and sometimes unkind as a teenager, actually. And nursing was not on my radar. I went through every career idea you could possibly imagine. I found myself at the age of 16, working in a residential center for children and adults with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. And I was around nurses for the first time and I was just awestruck. I couldn’t, I remember watching them and watching them and just thinking there was something profound and full of grace and magic about what they were doing to alleviate suffering, I guess. And actually, it was something that was kind of small in a way. They would make very small actions and do small things. But the small things that they did had such an effect on these people’s lives. And I think for the first time ever, I was inspired and I thought that’s what I want to do.

K.B.:                     That kind of oh I love that you describe it like magic, it makes me picture like one of those divining rods they used to have where they find water. I guess we all want something in our lives where our gifts match some kind of need in the world. And it sounds like you gravitated to that kind of, a certain kind of soul care that makes you feel alive.

C.W.:                    Yeah, I think so. And actually, when I started out, I started out in mental health nursing and in history, mental health or psychiatric nurses used to be called soul friends.

K.B.:                      Oh, wow.

C.W.:                    Yeah, I found that so beautiful. And I remember thinking about that word soul and how perhaps nursing is one of the professions like social work and like medicine that allows you to really connect with another human soul during the deepest, darkest and most profound moments of people’s lives. And I didn’t last long in mental health nursing, but I loved working with the children and young people. So I ended up most of my career in pediatric nursing.

K.B.:                     It’s a profession, I imagine, especially working with kids when you can’t help but fall in love every day. I imagine that is rich and beautiful and completely exhausting and demands that you give even when you might not have much left to give. What happens if you don’t learn how to refuel in a profession like that?

C.W.:                    Well, you can learn all the best techniques and tips and wellness things that you possibly can, but sometimes even with the best knowledge and even armed with all the resilience that you’ve picked up and a supportive group of friends and family and colleagues, even then, sometimes you can’t refuel. And sometimes burnout is is something that does happen. And certainly over the course of this year, I’ve been very, very worried about the mental health of nurses particularly. So I think even with the best will in the world, you can do as many protective things as you possibly can. But the job does take a chunk of your own soul if you want to do it properly. And it’s an occupational hazard that you have to be aware of that you there might be times where you are burnt out or have compassion fatigue or feel overwhelmed and exhausted. And I think this year particularly is one of those times.

K.B.:                     Yeah, that’s right. You know, I think people hearing this, if they feel tired, I hear a lot of permission. And what you’re saying too. I like when you said if you’re doing it right, like it’s not just that people I don’t know, I think we worry that if we get tired, it’s because there’s something defective about us.

C.W.:                   It’s the nature of the job. It’s external pressures. Unfortunately, at the moment, you can pick your existential problem because we are facing such existential threats around the world. But, of course, all our eyes are on the pandemic.

K.B:                    Yes, I love this framing you’re giving because it’s such a it’s such an important account of the interdependence of our fragility. Right. That our precarity is not dependent on one crisis. It’s like a it’s like a funnel.

C.W.:                  We’re suffering a pandemic of loneliness, but also of violence and knife crime and gun crime. And we’re suffering a pandemic of racism and division. And so there are lots and lots of things going on at once underneath the surface that are very, very important. And loneliness can kill you. I mean, it kills more people then heart disease. I fear very much about I mean, we’re in a very precarious state all over the world at the moment in the UK, things are pretty dire and we will be going into sort of local lockdowns in various places. People are talking about national lockdowns again and the winter is coming and it’s going to be bad is all we know. And I fear so much for particularly older people or people who are considered high risk. They might have disabilities, they might have conditions, they might have cancers that mean that they have to shield and not see another human being for a period of months sometimes. And that has such a horrific effect on people’s mental health that I worry as much about that as the physical side of Covid.

K.B.:                      There’s a grand accounting that happens when one kind of suffering rises to the surface as part of what I hear you saying. Now that we are aware of our radical interdependence, now that we’re aware that our health is all dependent on one another and  always has been, we just we just didn’t you know, we didn’t realize that our environment and our structural inequality and our ability to love our neighbor as ourselves  was like it was a group project that we will sink or swim together.

C.W.:                    Yes. Interestingly, when I’m thinking about conscious optimism and I think about the nurses particularly that I’ve known over the years, who’ve really inspired me. In the last year I write about her in The Courage to Care, it was a nurse who was described to me as the kindest nurse in Britain and I must go and meet her. And she, I traveled something like eight hours to drive and meet this nurse called Rachael, and she was a parish nurse in a church working with homeless people. And a lot of these people were in and out of prisons. They were misusing substances and was sort of on the periphery and edge of society. Some of them were convicted rapist, murderers, they’d had really terrible crimes, terrible lives. And she said on the way into this church, because she was serving them food and giving them health checks. And she said to me, we don’t have time to judge them because if we’re busy judging them, we don’t have time to love them.

K.B.:                         Oh.

C.W.:                        She really loved them. And they loved her back. And she taught me so many things. She said, let’s not call them patients or service users or clients. Let’s just call them people like me and like you. I’ve met so many brilliant nurses like that who give so much of themselves indiscriminately. And I think that’s what gives me some kind of sense of optimism. If people like her exist and we can learn from her collectively, then perhaps longer term our value system will change from the things that we viewed as important pre pandemic, which was looks, stuff, consumerism, globalization. And we can perhaps return to compassion and community and kindness and loving thy neighbor. You’re right.

K.B.:                         Yes, Christie I loved everything you said, everything you said I have thought in a less coherent form. I was so struck in your writing. You got such a strong pitch for this lesson at the heart of nursing, which is that the best nurses know that there’s no real distinction between you and the patient. We’re all in need of care at one point. We’re all nursing and nursed in some season. It’s certainly been my experience that the very best nurses I’ve ever known were the ones who really, really saw me. Who realized at some level that we weren’t sort of ontologically different. You know, the worst ones were the were the ones who saw only the kind of statistics and blood work and oxygen levels. And why did I need another set of instructions to use the chest x ray, haven’t I done that before?. You know, like the procedure lists. And we always know why. People get tired. And, of course, they resort to proceduralism. But there is some kind of organizational force field of love that nurses know how to create, where they decide that love is a series of just like you’re describing, like love is a series of small actions that make another person’s humanity possible for like a hot minute. And I’m I just I see that so much in your work and your example. And I’m I’m very moved by that.

C.W.:                        Well, thank you. I do think that it’s a terrible gift, actually, to live with your eyes wide open. It’s at once wonderful. But it’s also terrible because you most people go through life not really thinking about the big things every single second. But I suppose if you’re a nurse, then you know that life can turn on a dime and you are well aware that the worst things happen to the nicest people and anything can happen to any one of us at any time. And life is infinitely precious, but it can also be far too short. And I wonder whether this year the pandemic has allowed that sense of wonder, but also the terrible nature of that knowledge to enter into a collective psyche.

K.B.:                         Yes, that’s right.

C.W.:                       People realize that the world is not concrete beneath our feet. It’s fluid. And it perhaps never was, but at least we felt like it was before. And now nobody knows anything. And it’s so unpredictable and it will change culture forever I think this knowledge that everyone has had a glimpse of what a nurse has always known.

K.B.:                        Yeah, I just I have always hoped that that the sense that we belong to one another means that we will be less precious, you know, about our about our stuff and about our boundaries and even about our, like, self care routines. That we will know that we belong to one another because we are because we see it that we see this gorgeous spark of something when we decide to open ourselves up to it. And I am kind of hoping, honestly, the church was supposed to be the solution to the problem of everybody rowing their own boats. And so I hope that there’s some kind of feeling that when people want to gather that they have a community of love, that that helps them navigate the fact that life is so seasonal. There’s the season where all of a sudden you’re lucky and you’ve got it together and then there’s the season where you have nothing and you don’t even remember whether you were special at all. So.

C.W.:                        A parent of a child I was looking after which I thought was really incredible, she said that faith is not knowing. It’s hoping.

K.B.:                        Mm hmm. Oh, that’s good.

C.W.:                       And I’ve really carried that with me because I think now more than ever. Yeah, we need hope, whether we’re of faith or not.

K.B.:                    You know, there’s an I, I really like what your accounting as like the faith of nursing, because I think there’s like there’s a couple of things that are so resonant there, like the work of how we think about witness. Right. In theological terms, we say things like that witness is, you know, it’s not you, but you testify. You say like this is what I see and know. And then you act as someone who is responsible for that information. You know, when I feel my nurse, keep really careful track of my meds and reflect back to me the truth of what’s happening in my life when I can’t because I can’t even take care of myself. That feels like nurse as bearing witness. And also like the early use of the term of witness is related to the word martyr, like the one who suffers with, because you see, you suffer too. And man, am I grateful that nurses are willing to like, stand so close to suffering and know that that it has a residual effect that you suffer with us.

C.W.:                      Yeah, I think that’s really important. And I have a little bit of an issue with the word empathy. I think empathy is misunderstood and overused sometimes because my understanding is empathy means that you can literally walk into somebody else’s body and skin and shoes and go for a walk experience exactly what they’re experiencing. And of course, I just don’t think we are able to do that. And where as the word compassion, which means to suffer with to be alongside the suffering, I feel like that’s much more realistic. And to sit with someone in their suffering and to hold their hands and be with them, I think is the job of a nurse. And it’s the most important job of a nurse.

K.B.:                        That’s so gorgeous.

C.W.:                    Because I think that we can’t really, truly understand someone else’s suffering from the inside, but we can sit with it.

K.B.:                    Pain is so bizarre and it is so specific to your own body and even to your I mean, it’s a surprise even to yourself. Like if you’re in pain, five minutes is, I don’t know, approximately seven to 12 hours. I don’t know. It’s somewhere around there. But like, it stretches out even your own ability to narrate, like, what the hell is going on.

C.W.:                     When you when you were talking about nurses as witness, I think that’s such a beautiful and accurate portrayal of nursing because the best nurses will have a bird’s eye view of everything that’s happening in terms of the patient, but also the family, the life story, what’s important to that person, absolutely everything. And I’m thinking particularly of when my dad was dying and his nurse Cheryl, who I describe in The Language of Kindness, she was an advanced practitioner. She was highly skilled. She had a master’s and whatever, and she was working out drug doses and all those things. But actually, she anticipated his pain before it began and gave his medication just at the right time, which was not the time that was actually recorded on the chart. She gave it just at the right moment and she did things like open the curtains, just at the right moment so that he could bear the light and she knew his pain so well, not because he was scoring a pain chart or because of anything written in his charts, she knew it because of her relationship with him, because she’d listen to him so carefully. She pieced together the jigsaw puzzle of his whole life and knew the nature of his voice. And she knew when he said, I’m fine, that he wasn’t fine. It was a beautiful relationship they had. And that made so much difference, not just to my dad, but also to my mom and all of us, to know that he didn’t suffer as much as he would have suffered had it not been for Cheryl. She gave him the most incredible gift of that witness to his whole life and then being able to translate it into helping him in practical ways.

K.B.:                          Wow. And what powerful listening, like listening to the patient and listening to their bodies, listening to their loved ones, listening to the story behind everything. That is a kind of act of deep attention.

C.W.:                          Yes. And there’s the magic of humanity in our stories.

K.B.:                         It is magic. Yes, it really is.

C.W.:                       It is the magic of us. And we are flesh and blood and we’re bones and we’re all this gruesome things I don’t like thinking about in my squeamish nature. But we’re also stories with we’re all made up of stories and our stories are the things that actually connects all of us you know, in a most human way that’s what makes us human is we have so many stories and we contain these stories. And if people listen carefully to us, then we we can share them and realize that we have so much in common.

K.B.:                        Yeah, there is this raw beauty that you miss if you only get the Instagram filter curated, polished, tidied up, everyone has a Starbucks order version of your life. When you’re way up close, man people are magic and you just like that, that sounds like that is this been this animating life force that keeps you nursing.

C.W.:                            It definitely is. And I think that there’s magic in the messiness of us. I think that’s the most beautiful thing. It’s the imperfections that make us magic. It is our scares, the things we’ve been through, the stories we contain, the memories we have. And it is the messy nature of human beings in that we’re not perfect. We’re imperfect, in the imperfections is that magic.

K.B.:                          Yes. We’re in such a surreal moment for nursing. I’m just aware that with the rise of Covid, you volunteered to nurse again, which is people who run toward fear are my favorite kind of people. I am like a sit back and describe it historically once it’s long over. So. What was the deep motivation to get back into the fray?

C.W.:                          I think I need to ask myself some big questions this year because I haven’t quite analyzed enough what that was about. And I’ve written a little bit about it. I describe it as maybe this is a calling after all. The decision was really, really difficult. I like all health care workers I’m sure I spent the night before going back to work making sure my will was in order. And I’d work, I’m a single parent of two teens, and I left the house in the morning at six. Most of my colleagues were staying in the hospital because it was one of these field hospitals specifically for Covid. And so they left their families and spent a couple of months there and I couldn’t do that. So I left the house at six in the morning and I’d get back maybe nine or ten at night, run into the shower, disinfect my things, put all my clothes in a hot wash, wash my hair, scrub myself down, cry obviously, and then come out of the shower and I’d call my kids and say, come out now. And they’d hug me and I’d hug them like I’ve never hugged anyone. But it was traumatic and it was traumatic for them. I, I really struggled with the idea that I put their lives at risk. But at that time we didn’t know much about the nature of the virus and it felt like I was sacrificing not only myself, but perhaps them as well. And that was a really, really difficult thing to come to terms with. And so I’m not sure I can give you a straight answer, but I can tell you that the pull of it was overwhelming. And I, I had to go back. It was a it was a it was like a calling. And I haven’t really got to the bottom of what that was about, but at the moment, the hospitals, the field hospitals we call nightingales, they’re all starting to open up again and things are getting worse here again, so you know, lots of people have difficult decisions to make about their own families and what they can deal with, both physically if they’re strong enough, but also mentally. And it’s a really tough thing. But I to get the chance, I suppose, to stand among these inspirational colleagues that I’ve been talking about, even for a short time. I think the closest I can come to understanding why I did that is that I just wanted to stand next to them. It’s about teamwork and colleagues, and that’s such a strong force in the nursing profession. I feel like it was wanting to be part of the team.

K.B.:                        Amazing. I am privileged to have a lot of nurses in my life, a lot of family members and friends who have been, you know, I think they’re the way they describe the fact that their calling, their love, their desire to be the person that stands in that tender space that is able to actually hold patients hands when they have to hold up, you know, iPhones so that they can, you know, say goodbye to their families over FaceTime. I mean, it’s a it’s such a powerful thing you’re describing. And it sounds like the whether it’s a job or a calling really got put to the test with a lot of folks when they when they’re not just sacrificing their own health, but those around them.

C.W.:                     And I think that was the most difficult thing around the globe, actually. The idea that we might not be able to be with our loved ones when they’re sick or dying. But the nature of nursing is that no one is ever, ever alone, because when we can’t be there with our relatives, a nurse will always be there holding our relatives hand. And that nursing means that we’ll never be alone is such an incredible idea. And it makes me very proud to be a nurse.

K.B.:                       Yeah. Oh, yeah. When you describe the heart of nursing is the ability to love a stranger. And who knew that we would all need someone to love our strangers, you know, to be the person that holds them, that their ability to love strangers is what makes sure that nobody is alone. I don’t think any of us imagined we would need that kind of love so much.

C.W.:                      Yes, and I do worry. I worry about what will happen long term, retrospect is a great thing, and what will we think of it historically in the future when we look back at this time and people talk about saving lives as the most important thing. And I wonder if that’s really true because we’re not saving as many lives as we’d have liked. Certainly in the first wave, the death rate was horrific. And yet to provide compassionate care seems like the thing that we will be judged on, the thing that we should be judged on is how compassionate we are. And I believe that not letting relatives be with their loved ones when they’re dying is something that we will look back on in shame.

K.B.:                           Yeah.

C.W.:                          And I I’ve really fought for that in the hospital I worked in, and I think globally that’s something that we will have to grapple with in the future. And yes, it’s risky. And yes, there are PPE issues, but actually, if one of my children, or for example, my mom was alone, dying in a hospital and I was told she would she’d be with nurses, but I wouldn’t be able to go in, I think I would break down the door.

K.B.:                            Yeah.

C.W.:                         And I kept thinking about that when I was caring for patients who were going through this awful, awful scenario. And it made me realize that actually death and dying is not the worst thing it’s being without our loved ones during those times. That is by far the worst thing.

K.B.:                        I work in a seminary, so I work with a lot of pastors and chaplains and they’ve I mean, were one of the youngest seminaries in the country, so we’ve got these sweet little babies going out into the world and for the very first time, they were that proxy, like the person standing in that space. And it has been, I think, an education for all of us.

C.W.:                        Oh, gosh.

K.B.:                        In distended grief. And in the fact that we are especially toward the end, we’re so porous and all we need is to be remade by each other’s presence.

C.W.:                      Yeah. And it’s interesting that we all we all having this collective grief and almost a collective depression now I feel. There are such moments of light in the darkness. There are such glimmers of hope when we see people like your colleagues and my colleagues really embodying that connection and giving even more of themselves indiscriminately. And one of the jobs I had because I was the lead nurse for compassionate care was I was in a team as part of the chaplaincy and we had twenty four hours spiritual care, which is amazing, but we had every kind of religious denomination possible, also humanists as well. So I remember this meeting with imams and rabbis and there was a Church of England person, there was a priest, there was everyone was in the room. I mean, this sounds like a joke. So it was a room full of all the religions. And I was trying to chair the meeting. And keep to time.

K.B.:                       The little United Nations of Religions.

C.W.:                     Of the difficult days I’ve had, this could be right up there, you know. But they were wonderful. And what was so brilliant about working with these very strong characters, I have to say, who had slightly different beliefs, is that during this time, they were how can I help you? If you’re a Jewish patient, you know, if you can’t get here in time, I know I’m the imam. I will sit with them and I will iphone them to you and I will pray with them.

K.B.:                      Oh, lovely.

C.W.:                     Everyone adapted and became fluid and willing to help and willing to go outside the boundaries of what they thought they knew. And it was such a learning and it made me realize, hang on here. This is a religion of all of us. There is something bigger happening here that is so hopeful. It was gorgeous. I mean, it was very stressful on the day.

K.B.:                       Oh, I would not be very good at facilitating this. I’d be like, OK, it’s a really good point.

C.W.:                       Moving on.

K.B.:                       I thought something that you’ve practiced might be really helpful for some of our listeners to deal with the intensity of the life and the work that you’re describing, just how much it costs. One of the skills that you learned during your training was reflective practice. I wondered if you could walk me through that and how it might help.

C.W.:                        So reflective practice is a sort of conscious thinking or writing or talking about an experience that either went really well or really badly or that you learned from or was managing conflict or something a little bit out of the ordinary, I suppose. And it’s a way of analyzing what went well, what went wrong. But much more than that, it’s more about thinking, giving time and space to a situation and allowing it to settle, I suppose. And I’m a great advocate in reflective practice. It’s part of what nurses in the UK and I’m sure in Canada and America and everywhere else have to do as part of their registration every three years. So you do have to write reflective pieces. But I feel like perhaps particularly this year, I would advocate always writing a journal, whether it ever whether you ever go back to it or it gets read by anyone else or becomes reflective practice or not. I think that there’s something very therapeutic about writing words down on a page. And it might be that you never look at that journal ever again, or it might be in five years that you want to go back and make sense of something. And it might be that you want to write a poem or you just want to write a list of things that you did this week, or you want to write, you know, just about maybe about one of the patients that you looked after and how much you like their laugh or their pajamas or, you know, it could be absolutely anything. And I think I think sometimes the job of the scribe is seen as lesser important when we’re particularly thinking about resuscitations or you know, the high end their need of intensive care and cracking chest and things like that, there’s always a team leader. There’ll be somebody doing the defib, somebody on chest compressions, somebody in the ventilation headend. And the worst job is always seen as the scribe, the person that’s writing everything down. And I always think that that’s such an important job. And I feel like now we need the scribes because we are only at the end of the beginning of this and long term throughout culture and history, in the future, we need to make sense of what’s happening now. And when we’re talking about nurses as witness, I think it’s a really important, not only individually therapeutic thing to do, but for this will echo later on in history and those details are going to matter so much.

K.B.:                     That’s lovely. This is my last question, and I don’t mean for it to be so big, but I know obviously that Covid has had such an unbelievable impact on health care workers. And I know you have your ear to the ground and are hearing from everyone and are at the center of things. So what do they need and how can we help?

C.W.:                     So. I think that internationally, it doesn’t matter what country you live in right now. Nurses need a pay rise. I think we’ve all understood and appreciated the level of skill and expertise that nurses have.

K.B.:                    Yes.

C.W.:                 We really need to reward people for the incredible academic and experienced work that they do. But more than that, I think that if you have a nurse in your family or your network, then it’s really important to do the active listening the other way around. And I know nurses are doing the active listening, but I feel like sit them down, at an appropriate time, ask them how they are when they say they’re fine, ask them again. When they say they’re fine, ask them again and keep asking how are you really and what can I do? And I’m here for you. And I’m here to listen. And whatever you need, whatever support you need, because I feel like we’re very good at putting on a brave face as nurses and as patients and in the way that my dad said, I’m fine and Cheryl knew he was not fine. I think perhaps if you’re a family member of a nurse working on the front line at the moment, then you can pretty much guarantee that they’re not fine. And so really try and actively listen and support them as much as possible, and if they do need mental health support, or they need to be referred, then I think, you know, encouraging them to access services sooner rather than later is absolutely key this year.

K.B:                  Christie, I know I just met you, but you are officially one of my very favorite people to breathe and live and walk on this earth. I am blown away by your ability to love. I love the word used indiscriminately. It is foolish in the very best and most beautiful way. Thank you for loving strangers. Thank you for loving patients like me. And I am so grateful we had this time together.

C.W.:                Oh, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful talking to you.

K.B.:                We all want our lives to count, so we’re careful we do the right things, we’re calculated. That’s smart after all. Count it, make it add up to something. After today’s conversation, I think we need to pause to say, well, if that’s good math, I want terrible, terrible math. So here’s to those who care about strangers. What a waste, that wasn’t going to get you a nicer apartment. Here’s to those who give their health in service of patients who might not even deserve it. What if that patient took unnecessary risks or was selfish or was never going to say thank you? You could have been protecting yourself or God forbid, sleeping through the night. Here’s to those who listen to long, winding stories from lonely hearts. Instead of rushing off to more interesting friends. You picked boredom or patients instead of the warmth of being known. That was your time and you’re never going to get it back. Here’s to you, who loved people who weren’t grateful, the sick who endangered your health, the deeply boring, who know you have things to do. Loving people can be the most meaningful thing in the world, but it can also be hard and scary and boring and disgusting or sad or anxiety inducing with zero overtime. Thank you to all those who make these bad investments, those acts of love that are not going to add up to success in the way that the world sees it. You, my darling, are the definition of love.

K.B.:                         This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the Lilly Endowment. Huge thank you to my team. Jessica Richie, Keith Weston, Harriet Putman and J.J. Dickinson. Oh one more thing. I’ve been sending out these weekly blessings. Like a blessing for when you’re afraid, or a blessing for when you wonder if your gifts still matter. Just little prayers you can pray if you lack the words. You don’t have to be nearly as Jesusy as I am but if you like a good blessing, come on down. Sign up for free at This is Everything Happens with me, Kate Bowler.


One thought on “Bless the Nurses

  1. Your bless the nurses podcast is powerful and emotional. Our COVID-19 nurses, and all those who wear green, white and blue, are true heroes to whom we owe an enormous debt of gratitude. The following day-in-the-life song/video is a tribute to all these heroes: It touches on many of the points made in your lovely podcast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *