This week New Mexico took a significant step toward recognizing a broader spectrum of those who care for the sick. It did this when it created an exception to the Nurse Practice Act for those who care for the sick as part of a religious ministry. This means that anyone who provides care to the sick as part of a religious ministry will not be subject to the Nurse Practice Act – a statute that governs all aspects of allopathic nursing – education, training, accreditation, etc.
This “exception” was important not only to Christian Scientists but also to any ministry in New Mexico that provides practical care, but not necessarily allopathic medical care, to those who are ill or suffering. In Christian Science, there are two ways in which our ministry does this. First, most churches have a “care” committee that makes sure that members of that church – who need some basic, practical care – are supported. Second, there is a group called “Christian Science Nurses” who are trained in the basic, practical arts of caring for the sick – but who do not engage in anything related to medical procedures, diagnoses, drug giving or manipulation of the body.
One challenge in our modern and highly regulated and litigious society is the fact that members of the public and members of the medical community sometimes begin to believe that the allopathic approach to medicine is the only model and the only excepted option for preventing sickness as well as caring for and healing the sick. It is manifested in law that regulates and rules out any form of healing or care that is not produced and sanctioned by those with medical degrees. Today, it is also manifested in efforts by one international association of nurses to trademark (and, thus, claim as theirs alone to use) the term “nurse.”
Yet, we all know that there is a wide variety of approaches to health, wellbeing, healing, and preventing illness. And, studies show that 30-60% of the population is choosing alternative approaches either to complement allopathic care or in lieu of it. Further, prayer is often identified as one of the most common choices in which people do engage.
Caring for the sick, as part of collective and individual religious ministries, is for many a crucial testament to their practice of Christianity. It brings to the patient not only practical care of the body but also care of the soul – within an atmosphere of love and healing. It is one of the deepest forms of Christian fellowship.
One of the common myths about Christian Scientists is that we do not “care” for the sick; that we ignore sickness and suffering in our focus on healing through prayer. Nothing could be further from the truth. More than 100 years of actually training individuals within our ministry to care for the sick is proof that we are serious not only about healing sickness but also about caring for those who are sick and who are suffering while they seek complete and permanent healing. (You can find examples of such care and healing here: http://christianscience.com/prayer-and-healing/real-life-experiences-of-healing.)
Good forNew Mexico for recognizing the need for, and value of, wider options for all individuals to find the care and support that meets their individual – and unique – beliefs and needs.