Sunday, March 4, 2018

Pope Francis to #Nurses "Do not forget the "caress medicine"...A caress, a smile, is full of meaning for the sick person." FULL TEXT


Paul VI Hall
Saturday, 3 March 2018

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to meet you and, first of all, I would like to express my gratitude and my esteem for the work so precious that you carry out to many people and for the good of the whole society. Thank you, thank you so much!

I address my cordial greetings to the President and to the entire National Federation of Nursing Professions, which you represent today. Although coming from a long association tradition, this Federation can be called "newborn" and is now taking its first steps. Its constitution, confirmed by the Italian Parliament a few days ago, highlights the value of nursing professions and guarantees greater enhancement of your professionalism. With almost 450 thousand members, you form the largest Italian professional association, and represent a reference also for other categories of professionals. The common path that you accomplish allows you not only to have one voice and a greater contractual strength, but above all to share the values ​​and intentions that underlie your work.

The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable. Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with the patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their own body, which takes care of them. It is peculiar to the approach to the care you take with your action, taking in full the needs of people, with the typical care that patients recognize, and which is a fundamental part of the process of healing and healing.

The international nursing ethical code, which is also inspired by the Italian code of ethics, identifies four fundamental tasks of your profession: "promoting health, preventing illness, restoring health and alleviating suffering" (Introduction). These are complex and multiple functions, which affect every area of ​​care, and which are carried out in collaboration with other professionals in the sector. The curative and preventive, rehabilitative and palliative character of your action requires a high level of professionalism, which requires specialization and updating, also due to the constant evolution of technology and care.

This professionalism, however, is not only manifested in the technical sphere, but also and perhaps even more in the sphere of human relations. Being in contact with doctors and relatives, as well as with the sick, become the crossroads of a thousand relationships in hospitals, places of care and homes that require attention, expertise and comfort. And it is precisely in this synthesis of technical skills and human sensibility that the value and preciousness of your work is fully manifested.

Taking care of women and men, of children and the elderly, in every phase of their life, from birth to death, you are engaged in a continuous listening, aimed at understanding what the needs of that patient are, in the phase he is going through. In fact, facing the singularity of every situation, it is never enough to follow a protocol, but it requires a continuous - and tiring! - effort of discernment and attention to the individual person. All of this makes of your profession a real mission, and of you "experts in humanity", called to perform an irreplaceable task of humanization in a distracted society, which too often leaves the weaker people on the margins, only interested in who "Worth", or meets criteria of efficiency or earning.

The sensitivity you acquire every day in contact with patients makes you promoters of the life and dignity of people. Be able to recognize the right limits of technique, which can never become an absolute and overshadow human dignity. Be attentive to the desire, sometimes unexpressed, of spirituality and religious assistance, which represents for many patients an essential element of sense and serenity of life, even more urgent in the fragility due to illness.

For the Church, the sick are people in whom Jesus is especially present, who identifies himself with them when he says: "I was sick and you visited me" (Mt 25:36). Throughout his ministry, Jesus has been close to the sick, he has approached them with love and so many have healed. Meeting the leper who asks him to be healed, he extends his hand and touches it (cf. Mt 8: 2-3). We must not overlook the importance of this simple gesture: the Mosaic law forbade touching the lepers and forbade them to approach the inhabited places. But Jesus goes to the heart of the law, which finds its compendium in the love of neighbor, and touching the the leper reduces the distance from him, so that he is no longer separated from the community of men and perceives, through a simple gesture, the closeness of God himself. Thus, the healing that Jesus gives him is not only physical, but reaches the heart, because the leper has not only been healed but has also felt loved. Do not forget the "caress medicine": it's so important! A caress, a smile, is full of meaning for the sick person. The gesture is simple, but brings it up, feels accompanied, feels close to healing, feels a person, not a number. Do not forget it. Being with the sick and exercising your profession, you yourself touch the sick and, more than any other, take care of their body. When you do so, remember how Jesus touched the leper: in a way that was not distracted, indifferent or annoyed, but attentive and loving, which made him feel respected and looked after. In doing so, the contact that is established with the patients leads them as a reverberation of the closeness of God the Father, of his tenderness for each of his children. Just tenderness: tenderness is the "key" to understanding the sick person. With the hardness one can not understand the sick. Tenderness is the key to understanding it, and it is also a precious medicine for healing. And tenderness passes from the heart to the hands, passes through a "touch" the wounds full of respect and love. Years ago, a religious man confided to me that the most touching sentence he had been addressed in his life was that of a patient whom he had witnessed in the terminal phase of his illness. "Thank you, Father," he had told him, "because she has always told me about God, without ever mentioning it": this makes tenderness. Here is the greatness of love that we address to others, which brings hidden within itself, even if we do not think about it, the very love of God. Never get tired of being close to people with this human and fraternal style, always finding the motivation and the push to carry out your task. Be careful, however, not to spend almost to consume you, as happens if you are involved in the relationship with patients to the point of being absorbed, living in first person all that happens to them. What you do is a weary job, as well as exposed to risks, and excessive involvement, combined with the hardness of the tasks and shifts, could make you lose the freshness and serenity you need. Be careful! Another element that makes the carrying out of your profession burdensome and sometimes unsustainable is the lack of personnel, which can not help improving the services offered, and which a wise administration can not in any way intend to be a source of savings. Aware of the task so demanding that you carry out, I take this opportunity to urge the patients themselves to never take what they receive from you for granted. You too, be sick, be attentive to the humanity of the nurses who assist you. Ask without demanding; not only do you expect a smile, but also offer it to those who dedicate themselves to you. In this regard, an elderly lady told me that, when she goes to the hospital for the care she needs, she is so grateful to the doctors and nurses for the work they do, who tries to get elegant and look good for give something back to them. No one then takes for granted what nurses do for him or her, but always nurtures for you the sense of respect and gratitude that is due to you. And with your permission, I would like to pay tribute to a nurse who saved my life. She was a nun nurse: an Italian, Dominican nun, who was sent to Greece as a very educated teacher ... But still as a nurse she arrived in Argentina. And when I was about to die at the age of twenty, it was she who told the doctors, even arguing with them: "No, this is not good, we need to give more". And thanks to those things, I survived. Thank you so much! Thank you. And I would like to mention it here, in front of you: Sr. Cornelia Caraglio. A good woman, even brave, to the point of discussing with the doctors. Humble, but sure of what he was doing. And many lives, so many lives are saved thanks to you! Why stay all day there, and see what happens to the patient. Thanks for all this! Greeting you, I express my hope that the Congress, which you will keep in the next days, is a fruitful opportunity for reflection, discussion and sharing. I invoke God's blessing on all of you; and you too, please, pray for me. And now - silently, because you are of different religious confessions - silently pray to God, Father of us all, to bless us. The Lord blesses all of you, and the sick people you care for. Thank you!

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