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Praise for ‘heroic’ Catholic nurses after snow chaos


Spotlight on incredible work of medical community after weather woe

Nurses are irreplaceable, Pope Francis has said in a week in which medical staff across Scotland were praised as heroic for struggling through snow and gridlock to care for the sick.

“The role of nurses in assisting the patient is truly irreplaceable,” the Holy Father said. “Like no other, the nurse has a direct and continuous relationship with patients, takes care of them every day, and listens to their needs.”

The Pope’s words were welcomed by Scotland’s medical community who have been widely praised this week after stories emerged of their heroic efforts to care for patients as the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ struck most of the country last Wednesday.

One surgeon walked eight miles in a three-hour journey from Glasgow to Paisley to conduct an operation, nurses were forced to abandon their cars as they defied red alerts to try and reach their patients, and social media filled up with stories of medical staff walking arduous journeys in treacherous conditions to make it to their place of work.


Humility and heroism

Fr Martin Delaney, the chaplain to the Scottish Catholic Medical Association, welcomed the Pope’s words.

“I’m sure many people in this country could tell tales similar to his of the humility and heroism of many dedicated women and men,” he said. “It is so often nurses who, even when under great pressure, are witnesses to the human dignity of their patients with a warm smile or a friendly word to put them at ease, and the care that they show. But their clinical experience is also invaluable in ensuring that patients get the right treatment.”

Pope Francis’ message was picked up by a group of Scottish nurses who will be travelling out to Lourdes on pilgrimage with Catholic children’s charity HCPT on Easter Sunday.

They are assigned with the care of some of the most vulnerable and sick children within Scottish society and say their Faith helps them not only in Lourdes but in their day-to-day vocation.

A spokeswoman for HCPT Scottish regional nurses said: “Being a Catholic, there can be real comfort and peace found in going to Mass and lighting candles after a difficult shift or the death of a patient.

“As a nurse it is a privilege to be able to care for people who are often experiencing some of the most difficult challenges of their lives.

“A patient may not remember your name but they will always remember how you made them feel and that’s why it’s a vocation. Therefore it is very moving for Pope Francis to sing the praise of nurses in a week where many hospitals and communities struggled to cope with adverse weather.

“There are many nurses who were not able to leave their work because of the snow and some people travelled on foot through sub-zero temperatures in order to carry out their daily vocation.

“Pope Francis’ words are a source of great comfort to our profession in a time where many nurses are struggling in their workplace due to pay caps and austerity. It is not often nurses are given the credit we deserve and therefore we are all touched by the Pope’s kind words.”



Lisa Moran, a nurse from Coatbridge, said she had colleagues who stayed overnight and worked long after their shift had finished.

She said that most of the public values nurses—‘it hurts when they don’t,’ she said—but that the government doesn’t appreciate them enough. Paperwork and poor pay are the reward for long hours filling the gaps in an under-funded NHS.

“Anyone who is a nurse certainly doesn’t do it for the money—it’s a vocation” she said.

In his talk on March 6, Pope Francis told a story about how a nurse treating him overruled a doctor—a decision that saved his life. Mrs Moran said this can be a frequent occurrence. “Often you’ll hear a nurse say ‘I just have a feeling about a patient,’ when they are worried—and usually they are right!”



Mrs Moran also stressed the need for Catholic nurses to be given support so they can work in accordance with their beliefs. She said she is concerned about conscience rights and would even hesitate now to pray for a patient.

Her comments were echoed by Jane Harkin, the secretary of the Catholic Nurses’ Guild of Scotland.

“We need each other for help and support,” she said. “It’s getting increasingly difficult to be a Catholic nurse with issues around things like abortion. We need to know there are people behind us so we can stand up for our views.”

Fr Delaney also stressed the importance of backing our Catholic nurses and supporting them in their Faith.

“One of the difficulties faced by nurses—together with all healthcare professionals—in this ­country today is the assault on the freedom of conscience. There is no sign that this is going to get any easier. So we should take time to pray for nurses and all healthcare professionals.

“As a Church community, we should also take measures to challenge and prevent further assaults on the conscience. But at a very simple level, we should take time when we meet a nurse in the hospital or in the community to give them the same warm smile and friendly word—just to say ‘thank you’ for all they do.”

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