Arleta Lefler (60) talks to her supervisor, Theresa Gleason (52), about how faith informs her work as a nurse. For Arleta, nursing is a “God calling.” She recalls memorable moments of interacting with patients from throughout her career.
Arleta: “I knew at five years old that I would be nurse, and I never changed my mind. So I feel like my nursing actually was a God Calling. And in fact I guess I’ve put my own little life label on it, and I call it More Than a Job, and as I’ve gone through this “job” during my life so many things have happened that has reaffirmed to me that it’s more than a job. That my nursing is actually a ministry, it’s meeting people’s needs.
I was supervisor on a general surgery unit and we got a patient in named John. And he was transferred to us from Seward, from a nursing home, and he had terminal cancer and he was dying. He had befriended a stray cat that would come to the porch, the veranda of their nursing home in Seward, and he would feed it. So when he had to leave down there to come to Providence one of the staff there cut a picture out of a magazine of just some cat, and gave it to him. So when he came to us it was clutched in his hand and he would not let it go. And I thought, “Man this man has nobody and he’s about to die.” So I told my staff, I said “Mmmm, I think we need to plan something here.” I said John needs a cat before he dies. I knew I couldn’t bring my cat in, she was big and elderly. But my neighbor had a little kitten, a wild little kitten, but yet it was small enough that I could sneak it in I think. And so I got here and went on in the room, and several of my coworkers went in the room with me, and I said, “John, I brought you a visitor.” And he looked around and he didn’t see anybody other than the staff. He said, “Well who? I don’t see anybody.” And I said, “Here.” And I pulled the kitten out of my satchel and set it on his abdomen, and again I’m praying “Lord, please don’t let it get wild.” And John looked down on at his abdomen at the kitten. I can see it to this day and we’re talking 30 plus years ago, that kitten walked up John’s abdomen to his chest, touched noses with him, and laid down on his chest and looked in his eyes. And John started talking to the kitten. John cried, we cried, the kitten purred. And for over an hour John and that kitten communicated. And finally I had to leave and I said, “well John, I’ve gotta go now.” He said “Well thank you” and then he thanked the kitten for coming. And again the kitten touched noses and kinda purred and rubbed against him, and John handed me the kitten back. I left in tears and John died the next day. I look back on that and I think, “My God!” All the nursing care in the world wouldn’t have done for him what that one hour with a kitten sneaked in to the hospital did. And again that just made me see even more…that’s what it’s about.”
Hear Me Now is a partnership with the Providence Institute for Human Caring, StoryCorps and Alaska Public Media to record interviews with patients, family and caregivers. Storytelling and listening have proven clinical value, and are keys to whole person care, which addresses emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial comfort, as well as medical needs of patients and those who care for them.