When I’m not driving to Memphis for theology classes, I work as the Nurse Manager for the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN.
The community here at VUMC started planning when word of a new disease in China first got out. We all watched the news with growing anxiety as layers of contingencies were considered. The week the first patient was identified in TN, Nashville was also struck by a devastating tornado which wiped out or damaged all three of our warehouses and destroyed much of our PPE supplies. Staff were scared. Patients were scared.
It took courage to just keep showing up – not knowing what we would face each day. In addition to that, my personal fear included, “How am I going to complete all the hours for my pastoral care practicum!?” I slept in my office for two weeks in order to be with the evening chaplain as many hours as possible. Then I lived in my parents’ RV for five weeks so that I did not accidentally expose them to the virus.
Though there were extremely tragic situations, our worst fears never materialized. We congratulated ourselves for planning and hard work. We thanked the public for trying to help flatten the curve. Many prayed who had not done so in a long time. Some asked what the meaning of all this could be. What a ripe environment for someone freshly trained to be the Presence in the midst of crisis, doubt, and fear.
I look back over the past five and a half years at how my curriculum fell together by happenstance, as I took classes according to what my demanding work schedule would allow. How perfect that I was being trained to do pastoral care just as it was most needed in my life and the lives of those I shepherd. “And who knows but that you have come to your [management] position for such a time as this?” Thank God. What a blessing.