The Great Physician

How an ABWE missionary nurse practitioner taught her students that health isn’t the ultimate goal of their ministry.

From Message magazine issue "Catching the Vision"

The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for medical and nursing students — transitioning from the world of books and practice to the world of clinical care in hospital wards. They proudly walk across a platform to receive the crisp white lab coat that tells the world they are capable of and committed to providing quality medical care. Then, they exit that stage ready to conquer the world of death and disease.

Healthcare is a noble profession. Jesus is called The Great Physician, after all. What a privilege it has been for me to follow in His footsteps as a nurse practitioner. I have been blessed with the opportunity to watch the antibiotics I prescribed destroy a bacteria’s cellular wall and shrink the redness surrounding an infected wound, saving a man’s leg. I have listened to the sounds of a five-year-old boy’s crackling lungs and then handed his mother the medicine that restored his breathing. It’s an amazingly satisfying profession, so when I recently had the opportunity to address a room full of eager medical and nursing students in their new white coats, I wanted to inspire them to provide the best life-saving care they could for their future patients.

“One hundred percent of my patients will die. And so will yours,” I began.

How’s that for a motivational speech?

Through years of intense and costly training, there is a lot that we, as medical professionals, can do to help people. We can cure illnesses with a quick scribble on a prescription pad. We can stent the coronary arteries to restore blood to a pounding heart. We can even drill through a skull to remove a life-threatening tumor. But we can’t prevent death.

Despite our best attempts to delay it, we know all of our patients will die. But I know something more important. While I cannot make my patients live forever, I can offer them the hope of life after death. I can share the healing of body and soul that is available through a personal relationship with the Great Physician, who deeply loves them and desires their fellowship.

This is why I chose to become a medical missionary, and not just a nurse. I want to heal more than my patients’ bodies. When I take a physical history of my patients’ state of health, I also take a spiritual inventory. I constantly look for ways to share the truth and healing of Jesus, and one evening, I found an opportunity with Mr. Taylor.

I was working the night shift. It was dark, and beeping machines echoed throughout the unit. Beneath the hum of an oxygen tank, I heard the subtle cries of an 82-year-old man who had suffered a massive stroke. I sensed the Holy Spirit prodding me to initiate a conversation with Mr. Taylor.

“I’m going to die, aren’t I?” he asked.

“We’re all going to die someday, Mr. Taylor,” I replied.

It was a weak and rehearsed start, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to deepen. Thankfully, my other patients slept through the night as I had the opportunity to share with Mr. Taylor how God can heal not only the broken bone, but also the broken spirit. And there, in room 7114, Mr. Taylor gave his life to Jesus.

He whispered again, “I’m still going to die, aren’t I?”

“Yes, sir,” I started. “You are going to die. But you are also going to live.”

Traci Warner has been an ABWE missionary and nurse practitioner in Nicaragua for more than three years. In addition to her medical ministry, she teaches church planting classes for pastor’s wives, leads Bible studies for women and teens, teaches Bible classes at a bilingual Christian school, and hosts short-term missions teams.

Traci Warner

Traci Warner is an ABWE missionary working with church plants in and around Managua, Nicaragua. She focuses on evangelism, discipleship, and teaching/training women, teenagers, and children. As a nurse practitioner, she also has a limited medical ministry. Support Traci's ministry.