Why I Chose Pediatrics and What it Means for Mission

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  • January 29, 2018

Being a man in nursing is rare enough but it is especially rare to be a man in pediatric nursing. So people always ask me why I chose pediatric nursing and I like to tell them this story:

I was interning in a pediatric hospital during my last summer of college. I was enjoying it but one patient in particular convinced me that I wanted to specialize in pediatrics. She was a four year old girl on the autism spectrum who also had a problem with her airway that made her nonverbal. I cared for her for three days straight and on the morning of the third day I came in to find her crying. We keep patients like her in “bubble-top” cribs to prevent them from climbing out and injuring themselves, so I came in and opened up the top. I was trying to figure out why she was crying. No signs of being in pain, and her diaper wasn’t wet. I offered her her favorite toy but she kept crying. So the question became, what did she want?

Because she was nonverbal she had learned a “hand over hand” technique for communication, meaning that when we want her to pick something up we place our hand over her hand and move it to the object. She, being particularly clever, had started doing the opposite, grabbing our hands and moving them to objects she wants us to grab. So as she was crying in the crib she reaches out between the bars and grabs my hands, placing them on the handles of the crib. I get the message, she wants me to drop the crib rails. So I figure she wants to walk and stretch her legs, but I was wrong. As I drop the crib rails, she immediately wrapped her arms around me, burying her head in my chest. Finally I understood, what she wanted was me.

This may not seem like a big deal (and probably sounds obvious to any parent) but to someone who was just learning how to be a nurse this was a defining moment. So often we are taught as nurses that patients’ need something, a medication, education, therapy, etc. but we can neglect the human side of things. The idea that, especially in pediatrics, the most beneficial thing I can offer my patients is myself is what made me choose the field. As much as children need the medicines and therapies that we give, they need a person just as much.

I think this idea applies to missions even moreso. Our ultimate goal of missions is to give the lost a person, Jesus. We are and should be concerned for the good of our neighbors’ physical safety, material needs, health and prosperity but ultimately they have a greater need than any of those things. The good news is what we have to offer is greater than any want they have ever had. I’m reminded of the lyrics of the Christmas song O Come O Come Emmanuel.

O Come desire of nations bind

All peoples in one heart and mind

Bid envy, strife and discord cease

Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace

Our Emmanuel is the true desire of nations. He is the person that the lost truly need. So as we go out to bless our neighbors next door and across the world we should give them physical goods but we must always remember that what the lost truly needs is Jesus.

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About Jimmy Hettinger

Jimmy is a pediatric critical care nurse by trade, and a member of Seven Mile Road by providence where he serves as regular blog contributor and bassist on the music worship team.

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