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Spirituality in Nursing

You Can’t Imagine Change of Character

Published December 16, 2015 4:04 PM by Mark Darby
You can CAT scan a broken bone or a diverticula. You can scope a cardiac vessel in real time and watch the blood flow. But a change of character-from helpless to hopeful, from addict to recovery, from smoker to non, from overwhelmed with chronic pain to a person who copes well-is something that nurses know exist but which we cannot measure. Character, how you act on a long term basis, is the part of your personality that is most difficult to change. 

In this day of evidenced based medicine, which I fully support by the way, measurement is supreme. Yet a change in a person's character is something that that only causes wonder. I can tell you some of the events that make change of character possible such as:

  • When someone realizes that they need to change their behavior or die
  • When a compassionate health care provider asks the right question at the right time
  • When a person finally experiences a little bit of success in making an improvement
  • When a person finally gets tired of living the way they do.

Yet for every event that may promote a change of character in one person it will have no effect on 10 others. I suppose if I could predict such a change I could just as easily learn how to put this change in a bottle and sell it in Walgreens for $1 a pill taken by mouth.

Yet in the last week of my practice a women who has struggled with obesity celebrated losing 10 pounds, an alcoholic went to treatment, a patient with high blood pressure is taking all her meds on time and giving up smoking. Their character changed. And though I was, by their own report, instrumental in their character change, I would not have predicted that it would have been them to undergo this change.

I used to wrack by brains to get some scientific explanation of these changes of character. I never even came close. I guess a person's character is rooted in something unscientific like their spirit and not their brain. Maybe some changes are not measurable. 

So I guess I can only try and do what I usually do and enjoy the ride. All in all not a bad gig.


Man as an integrated being is physical,spiritual,social, rational,emotional being. What affects man emotionally affects his body.Lack of meaning and purpose in life,lack of hope ,poor valuing of self and the need to be forgiven are spiritual needs. Healthcare should address or deliver holistic care or care for the whole man as a whole.

Arlene , R.N. January 15, 2016 1:14 PM

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