NDW. It stands for “Not Doing Well”.

It’s not a technical term. I’m not sure that anyone outside our hospital even knows what it means. It’s a message our chaplains write next to a name on a list that lets other chaplains know that this particular situation is one to be aware of. It reflects a pastoral sensitivity to a medical situation.

A patient may be in the very last stages of a disease. A patient may have had breathing support withdrawn. A patient may have life-threatening injuries which are, in fact, threatening life. NDW.

FullSizeRender.jpgWe pay attention to those names, those rooms, those families. We stop by a little more intentionally. We spend a little conversation and affirmation on the people who are providing care.

It’s not that people who are NDW are more special. It’s not that they are less capable. It’s that they need help and we can provide some.

Sometimes people go off the list when they RHC. Sometimes people go off the list when they get well. Sometimes people go off the list when their situation goes from acute to chronic, from hospital to extended care.

Our care is rooted, in part, in Paul’s words to a small church he loved: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.”

Paul understood that all situations involve connection, but each situation demands discernment and response. We’re good at warning. We can tell other people what to do with precision. But when you are not doing well, you need patience, help, and courage.

And that’s what we try to see and do.

But if I’m honest, Paul’s not writing just to chaplains. He’s writing to me, and perhaps to you. He’s inviting us to look at the list of people we see today with prayer and discernment. To mark one or two of them, NDW. And to respond accordingly.


About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

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