Frances Blatchley remembers as a child pretending she was a nurse. “It was all I ever wanted to be from the time I was little,” she said. “My poor mother put up with a lot of cold cloths on her forehead.”
Little hands that ministered to a patient mother grew into the hands of a student at the Lankenau Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia. There, from Lutheran deaconesses, Blatchley first learned about Martin Luther’s concept of vocation.
“I don’t think I’m much different from hundreds and hundreds of other nurses. If you don’t have the calling, I don’t know how you do the things that nurses do. You have to have compassion,” she said.
Compassion and faith have guided Blatchley for more than 50 years as an obstetrics and recovery room nurse. Recently retired, she volunteers weekly at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, Pa.
Blatchley says hand-holding is her best skill. “I’m not eloquent like some people when it comes to prayer,” she said, “but I’ve often held patients’ hands and prayed with them.”
She understands the profound power of touch to bring hope to a mother able to hold her child before the newborn is whisked away to neonatal intensive care, or to reassure patients in post-op recovery. She knows firsthand how touch can comfort parents grieving a stillborn child or patients receiving a difficult diagnosis. Her experience as a 28-year breast cancer survivor has also shaped her faith and ability to minister to other women facing cancer surgery and treatment.
“As a nurse I’ve shared the joy of birth and had the privilege of being present at the passing on to eternity,” she said. “Maybe it sounds cliché, but this truly is ‘God’s work. Our hands.’ ”
Blatchley’s faith is “hands-on” too. She and her husband, Ronald, serve Messiah Lutheran Church in New Berlin, Pa. From altar guild to choir to serving on the congregation council to visiting homebound members, the Blatchleys are ready to lend a hand. “If doors need to be opened, we can be there,” she said.