Healthcare fellowship proposes life standards for healing professions

Pandemic-related stress prompts initiative to support health-industry workers

Lyubov Slashcheva, a dentist from Harrisonburg, Va., serves on the Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship board. — MHF Lyubov Slashcheva, a dentist from Harrisonburg, Va., serves on the Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship board. — MHF

Can a 1970s cookbook offer guidance for healthcare workers in the 2020s? Mennonites in the healing professions are making the connection.

Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship is proposing “five life standards for the healing professions” based on ideas outlined in the best-selling More-with-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre in 1976.

The five standards are:

— Do justice for the health and well-being of all;

— Learn from the world’s health wisdom and communities;

— Nurture all people’s health and well-being;

— Cherish the natural order for healthy bodies and the Earth; and

— Nonconform freely to serve, care and live as Jesus taught.

These standards build a framework for an initiative to explore how Anabaptist healthcare professionals and their families integrate their faith into their work and their lives generally.

MHF will engage its membership and those who support them to share oral stories and create a written narrative to serve as a testimonial and discernment tool for Anabaptists in the healing professions.

Introduction of the project drew affirmation during MHF’s virtual annual gathering Sept. 17-19. The theme was “Fostering Provider Resilience.”

MHF members feel a need for this support during what some call a ­“medical-industrial-complex era,” whose pitfalls the coronavirus pandemic has exposed.

Lyubov Slashcheva, a dentist from Harrisonburg, Va., who serves on the MHF board, reported on the meeting:

“The coronavirus pandemic has ­altered all of our lives. Expecting healthcare workers to continue operating on empathy and physiologic overdrive through recurrent episodes of distress has brought moral injury to professional and personal lives. We are not immune from the strain of overwork and lack of support from the healthcare system and the public. In recent times, our professional lives have not brought the expected sat­isfaction, creating an opportunity to be thoughtful about drawing meaning from other parts of our lives.

“A retired professional who served Appalachian communities as part of his alternative service as a conscientious objector said, ‘We are still conscientious, but we are no longer objecting.’ He cited peer pressure and the profit-driven healthcare system as reasons why many are resigned to accept the way things are.

“Two other participants said faith communities in the military-draft era steered youth toward conscientious objection. COs were offered a defined path to live out their convictions. In contrast, confronting violent patterns in the healthcare system today is much more difficult, especially when careers and lifestyles are implicated within the complex and lucrative industry.

“Another participant said he graduated from medical school with $1,100 of debt, half of which he repaid through alternative service with a mission agency and the other half within months while establishing a successful medical career. He recalls the dilemma of managing a large flow of income for which his frugal Anabaptist upbringing had not prepared him and on which the church did not offer clear guidance.

“In contrast, today’s emerging health­- care professionals graduate with heavy loads of debt, which limits their options for aligning convictions with work.

“Discussion shifted to envisioning how MHF members can care more authentically in relation to Anabaptist convictions and align less with harmful patterns of ailing healthcare systems.

“Some asked whether it would be more effective to live out one’s convictions within the intractable realities of healthcare systems as the quiet in the land, which is another Anabaptist legacy, or to speak out against injustices and confront the system directly.”

MHF invites participation in the initiative by families, faith communities and friends of Anabaptist health-care professionals. People interested in learning more and getting involved are encouraged to contact MHF executive director Cate Desjardins at

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