Clinical Nurse Specialist Maria Aparicio explains more. Just how did a book co-written by a nurse at St Christopher’s end up being presented to the Pope in Rome?
The book, Gratitud y cuidados paliativos (Gratitude and Palliative Care)(Gratitude and palliative care. A dialogue between philosophers and clinicians – Ediciones Universidad de Navarra (eunsa.es)) was the outcome of a nine-month project which saw healthcare professionals and philosophers meet online and in person fortnightly, for nine months to discuss the impact of gratitude on doctors and nurses working in palliative care and to reflect on the essence of gratitude in palliative care. You can read more about that in this article.
Facilitated by the research team called ATLANTES, at the University of Navarre in Pamplona, where Maria did her PhD on this topic, the project culminated in an event that saw 400 healthcare professionals and philosophers join in person and online for a conference about the findings. This then then led to the book.
Maria and the ATLANTES team started to study the topic of gratitude more than 10 years ago, first analysing the content of letters of thanks that were received by the palliative care teams. They then followed this up with a major project about the impact that expressions of gratitude have on those professionals.
“Most of us who work in palliative care keep a box in our house,” she adds. “We all have letters and tokens of gratitude, some of which cost very little but are absolutely priceless. We felt that most of us when we are feeling down or lost in what we are doing, we will come back to that box and find renewed motivation. It’s like fuel in a car or vitamins for the body. We thought it was really important to bring more knowledge about it, so we decided to make a systematic study as none was found in our literature review.”
Like any gift or card, some mean more than others. The research identified criteria for determining their significance, one of which is the nature of the relationship with that individual. Equally, Maria says, a look, smile or hug of appreciation can carry as much or even greater meaning as a material gift – as discussed in this article.
Gratitude is not exclusive to the palliative care field, Maria says. “In fact, it’s strange because the gratitude we receive is not because we have cured the patient, but because the care that we provide usually goes beyond the medical care.”
Also, Maria adds, that being receptive to people’s gratitude is essential for maintaining a balanced relationship, “Sometimes as doctors and nurses we feel like we’re just doing our job and we don’t deserve the thanks. But if they want to give something back we have to allow it and open up to it to stop that hierarchy. But let’s be very clear that we do not work expecting any gratitude”
Maria says that while she still appreciates and welcomes every token of gratitude she receives in her role as a nurse supporting people in the community, her research has given her a greater awareness of its effect on her and her nursing practice.
“I feel like I am carrying all the gratitude I have received in my life with me. That doesn’t mean any new thanks aren’t welcome, because it always is, but all of those nice words people have said are in my skin and in my memories and I feel very grateful and blessed and they are part of who I am now.”
So, finally, how and why did the book reach the Pope?
Maria reveals: “The Pope is a big supporter of palliative care. One of the directors of my thesis at the University of Navarre happens to belong to a committee at the Vatican. He travelled to Rome once or twice a year and he usually will have a meeting with the Pope. Then we thought that as a gesture of gratitude for his support of palliative care, he should offer a copy of the book on this occasion. He did and Pope Francisco appreciated it!”
“It is something that you do not expect to happen, it is amazing. I particularly love this Pope, so I am really grateful and thrilled that he has a copy of our book.”