By Hannah Brockhaus
Speaking to a group of nurses on Saturday, Pope Francis thanked them for their valuable work and paid a tribute to the Dominican nun who saved his life when he was a young man.
“[She was] a good woman, even brave, to the point of arguing with the doctors. Humble, but sure of what she was doing,” he said March 3.
Francis told a brief story from when he was just 20 years old in Argentina. He was ill and close to dying, he said, when Sr. Cornelia Caraglio, who was a nurse from Italy working in Argentina, argued with the doctors about his treatment, “and thanks to those things [she suggested], I survived.”
The pope told the story to help illustrate the importance of the profession of nursing, saying “many lives, so many lives are saved thanks to you!”
“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the pope said. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, listens to their needs and comes into contact with their very body, that he tends to.”
Pope Francis spoke to members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican.
Nurses, he said, are constantly engaged in the act of listening, in order to understand the needs of their patient, no matter what he or she is going through.
He reminded them that it isn’t enough to merely rely on protocol, but that their job requires “a continuous – and tiring! – effort of discernment and attention to the individual person.”
This makes the profession “a real mission,” and nurses “experts in humanity,” he said. This is particularly important in a society which often leaves weaker people on the margins, only giving worth to people who meet certain criteria or level of wealth, he noted.
The pope also told them that the sensitivity they acquire through their daily contact with patients makes them “promoters of the life and dignity of people.”
“Be attentive,” he continued, “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.”
He also acknowledged the difficulty of the profession with its risks and tiring shifts. Because of the demands on nurses, he encouraged patients to have patience with them, making requests without demanding, and also offering a smile.