Psychiatric nurses get to meet many famous people throughout our careers, well sort of. Sometimes we care for patients suffering from delusions of grandeur. When I was a student at a Veterans Administration hospital, I cared for many “A List” celebrities. I met President Harry S. Truman, the Virgin Mary, and Albert Einstein. I also had the honor of meeting three gentlemen on a unit, all claiming to be Jesus Christ. The unit nurses dubbed the trio “The Jesus Three.”
The Jesus Three were a happy trio that spent a lot of time together in the unit’s sunroom, reading the Bible and debating religion. They also walked through the unit baptizing other patients and the staff. I felt a gentle mist of water landing on the back of my neck one day as I was talking to one of my patients in the dayroom. I turned around and found one of the men with a plastic spray bottle. He smiled as he baptized me and said he was saving my soul. I thanked him, and went on with my conversation.
I couldn’t understand how these gentle souls ended up in the hospital. They never yelled or cursed, and they helped out the nursing staff by feeding patients who couldn’t feed themselves. I also saw them writing letters for those who couldn’t read or write, and chatting with patients who never received any visitors. I found out later that their family members didn’t want to deal with “peculiarities,” so they had them committed into the hospital. That sort of thing was commonplace back then, and unfortunately they got swept up in an unfair system.
Nurses are taught never to feed into a patient’s delusions, but on the last day of my psychiatric clinical rotation, I just had to ask them how they could all be Jesus Christ. After all, didn’t the Bible say that there was only one true Messiah? They all looked at me and smiled. One of the men said, “I guess that just proves that the spirit is among us.”
Maybe angels really do walk among us on psychiatric units.