One of the groups that the current crisis has put in the spotlight is healthcare workers. While healthcare workers have always had a crucial role to play in serving their communities, our current crisis has made us much more aware of their role and of the unique challenges they face in a time like this.
I’ve had the privilege of ministering full-time to those in the healthcare profession for the past 18 years. There has never been anything like this!
How Do I Minister to Healthcare Workers?
Just today I spoke to an Emergency Room physician who shared about the stress he is experiencing. Yesterday he intubated 3 patients, which means he was very close to their airways, the most dangerous place he could be. He shared that 70% of their patients either have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it. Besides the danger to himself, he has a wife and several children at home whom he wants to protect. Since we all have stay-at-home orders, what can we do to help such people? Actually, a lot.
How to Begin Ministering to Healthcare Workers
First, listen to their story. Try to understand and empathize with what the person is going through. Then pray together over the phone. Sometimes as Christians in a situation like this, we think we can’t do much, only pray. Well, that is actually a lot.
Besides the fact that God answers prayer, people are helped greatly by praying with us, even over the telephone. In some situations, we may also be able to provide some other kind of help, like picking up groceries and delivering them to their house, but in many cases, just praying with people will minister in a way that we can’t imagine.
Ministry is always a work of faith—we do what we believe God has called us to do and trust him with the results.
Don’t Assume Everyone Views the Pandemic the Same
One common mistake is to assume that everyone is reacting to the pandemic in the same way. Usually, we think they are responding in the way we are responding. But a first step is to connect as personally as possible with the healthcare worker, and to start the conversation finding out how they are doing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Then you will have an idea of how to meet their actual needs rather than what you would want someone to do for you. The principle in Proverbs 18:2 is a good reminder here: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
How Are Doctors Responding to the Pandemic?
For example, one doctor I know whose practice has been effectively shut down as non-essential is organizing physicians in his church to give advice to others in the church on basic questions that people are asking. This enables the doctor to use his/her skills in a practical way and also enables others to benefit and have their minds put at ease by having someone they know and trust give them basic counsel at this time.
Another doctor started a testing center and is energetically testing hundreds of people each day. He is one that may need to be slowed down before he burns out! He certainly doesn’t need much encouragement; rather he is encouraging others by word and deed.
Healthcare workers are used to working long hours to serve others, but they are not used to having their work procedures change almost daily. Nor are their families accustomed to being fearful that when mom or dad comes home they may be carrying a disease that none of us want!
We need to be aware of these pressures that are common to those serving in our hospitals at this time.
Practical Ways to Minister to Healthcare Workers
Since many in the church do not understand the normal pressures of those in healthcare professions, this could be a learning time. With this in mind, here are some practical ways to serve our healthcare workers:
- Pray for those in healthcare now and after the crisis is over.
- Notice those who are most vulnerable and identify those who will be most affected by the isolation, such as those who live alone.
- Reach out with a phone call, if possible. This is much more personal than an email or a text. Healthcare workers are bombarded with emails right now and thus are likely ignoring all but the urgent ones from work. Begin by asking how they are doing and what is going on. Be a learner.
- Pray with folks on the phone.
- Be mindful that some in our medical community need support from a pastoral perspective at this time. Provide that if you can or offer to connect them to a church leader or another mature Christian.
- Connect healthcare workers to the online resources written specifically for them at the website of CMDA.
All of us should use this opportunity to meet people where they’re at and point them to Jesus. Let’s be faithful, remembering that Jesus is at work in our hearts and that He is not quarantined. The Great Commission is still in force. God is giving us this opportunity to witness to Him through deeds of love and mercy and by telling people the good news in creative ways.