baptizing a patient???

  1. There is a companion thread in this forum about religion and nursing that made me think of this...
    have any of you ever heard of anyone baptizing a patient or know anyone that has???
    I once worked with a nurse who had worked PICU and she kept holy water in her locker...had used it once or twice on her patients...apparently a lay baptism is permissible in the Catholic church if a priest or deacon is not available. All one need do is sprinkle the water on the person and say "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit".
    It sounds reasonable to me....and I can't say that I would not do it if I had an infant or child in grave condition and knew that the parents were either not involved with the child or had no religious affiliation. Of course, if the parents had religious beliefs, and they were other than Christian, I would not dream of doing it - I would fully respect their belief system.
    I just wanted to open some dialogue here on the subject....please be nice! I just really want to hear what you all think.
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  2. 33 Comments

  3. by   KatieBell
    No, I would not baptize a patient, unless it was specifically requested by the patient or parents of the patient. And even then, I would probably call the chaplain to hightail it up to the area.
  4. by   Gompers
    I work at a Catholic hospital, and I was once asked to baptize a patient. It was a 1-day-old baby who was coding, and while the chaplain had been called and was on his way, there wasn't time to wait. We knew the parents would want the baby baptized just by talking with them (they were Hispanic and very religious). He was my patient, and some of my coworkers told me it was my job to baptize the baby since he was my responsibility. I said that I wasn't a practicing Catholic anymore (even though I had received all the sacraments from baptism through confirmation) and didn't feel comfortable doing it! I asked one of them to do it, or the doctor leading the code. Basically, they all guilt-tripped ME into doing it, even though I really really didn't want to. I was very new at the time, and this definitely wasn't covered in my orientation! If it was now, I'd have refused and grabbed someone else. But in that second, I felt like I had no choice. I used sterile water and gauze, said the traditional verse, and made the sign of the cross on his forehead. He was pretty much gone already, but we didn't stop the code until a couple of minutes later when the parents arrived to hold him. We did tell them that he was baptized, which they were grateful for, but no one mentioned it was me and not the chaplain.

    I did tell my boss about it and said that I don't think it was right to force me to do something that I didn't feel comfortable with. The people I work with tend to be VERY conservative and religious. They honestly don't understand HOW anyone can NOT be religious, so it was hard for them to get why I didn't want to do the baptism. Like I said above, I'd never do it again.

    Either way, if lay baptism is "okay" by the church, then at least the baby was baptized, one way or another.
  5. by   caroladybelle
    As a Jew, it would be inappropriate for me to say the words that a Baptism would require, as it would imply a belief in those principles. And the G-d that I believe would find such an action unnecessary to salvation.

    That said, as it is usually a matter for a parent to be concerned with, said parent would be just as capable of a lay Baptism, or more so as they are the ones with the belief. They can certainly Baptize the child, or another nurse that holds those beliefs.

    One statement that I perhaps have an issue with, would be the idea that one might baptize someone whose family holds no specific belief... as though a thought of "What does it matter/hurt/harm and could only help".

    If one would restrain from Baptism of a child/person of contradictory Faith, one should also restrain oneself from Baptizing those of "no Faith"....if that exists.

    Because to espouse a Faith in no deity may be just as strong a "belief" as to espouse Faith in a deity.
  6. by   Jolie
    I have only done so once. I was caring for a newborn who was clearly not going to survive. Her parents were not going to be able to get to the nursery to see or hold her before she passed away. They had expressed strong faith during their time in L&D, so when my manager asked me to baptize her, I had no problem doing so. There would have been no time for a chaplain to be called. This was not a Catholic hospital, but were were instructed on baptism during our orientation to the NICU.

    The next day, I met her parents, feeling it was my duty to do so, as I was one of the few people who had held their daughter during her short, precious life. They expressed tremendous gratitude that she was baptized, and I felt privileged to have been a part of such a touching experience.
  7. by   labcat01
    I am a catholic and even so I don't think I would ever be comfortable baptizing a baby. I don't think that my creator would deny a baby entrance into heaven just because he wasn't baptized.

    I also agree with this comletely.
    Quote from caroladybelle
    That said, as it is usually a matter for a parent to be concerned with, said parent would be just as capable of a lay Baptism, or more so as they are the ones with the belief. They can certainly Baptize the child, or another nurse that holds those beliefs.

    One statement that I perhaps have an issue with, would be the idea that one might baptize someone whose family holds no specific belief... as though a thought of "What does it matter/hurt/harm and could only help".

    If one would restrain from Baptism of a child/person of contradictory Faith, one should also restrain oneself from Baptizing those of "no Faith"....if that exists.

    Because to espouse a Faith in no deity may be just as strong a "belief" as to espouse Faith in a deity.
  8. by   sbic56
    I have no religious affiliation and I would not want anyone baptizing me or mine in any situation. I think that should occur only when all parties are in agreement, so it's not an either or type of situation. Just because I don't participate in a religion, doesn't mean others are free to practice their traditions on me.
  9. by   Finallyat40
    I would not have a problem baptizing one of my babies, so long as I knew that it was the parents wishes and the catholic priest at our hospital couldn't make it in time. We do keep a bottle of holy water on our unit for just these situations. I personally don't believe that baptism is required to get into heaven, however, I respect the beliefs of those who do. Especially in the NICU environment where the parents realistically have little control over the outcomes, I feel that this is one thing that we can provide to help them feel more peace during this awful transition. When our patients take a turn for the worse, if the mom has gone home from the hospital, we contact them immediately to come, and I've even seen us send out an ambulance to pick up parents, but sometimes they just can't make it.....if we're in a dire situation, we always ask the parents their wishes and notate it on the kardex once the baptism has been performed.
    Jamie
  10. by   babynurselsa
    I have also worked in a Catholic facility and this WAS covered in orientation. In an instance where an infant would expire before clergy could arrive we were instructed to use sterile water and make the sign of the cross on the forehead with the recitation of "In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost I baptize you..."
    This was for Catholic pts, at the families request. My understanding (non-catholic) is that this is a necessary step. I have no more issue with this in offering comfort to a grieving family that is about to lose their baby than I would offering any other sort of comfort measure.
    I have less of a moral conundrum offering this to a family than I do giving a drug seeker his/her fix of their ER drug of choice because they are broke today and can't afford to buy it on the street so they check into the ER with their migraine/back/chest/ankle/pinky pain that is a 10/10 of course before I can give them their pain I have to wait for them to put down their bag of chips/soda/telephone, or go out to the smoke hole and find them.
  11. by   fergus51
    Quote from sbic56
    I have no religious affiliation and I would not want anyone baptizing me or mine in any situation. I think that should occur only when all parties are in agreement, so it's not an either or type of situation. Just because I don't participate in a religion, doesn't mean others are free to practice their traditions on me.
    This is how I would behave with others. I was raised to believe that there are no requirements or rituals needed for salvation and I would expect that to be respected by my healthcare providers. If you know the parents want it done, then by all means do it. Otherwise, you are treading on touchy grounds.
  12. by   Jamesdotter
    As a student 40+ years ago I was taught to baptise if requested and there was no chaplain available to do it. I'm not Catholic and it wasn't a Catholic facility. I've never been called on to do it, however.
  13. by   michele08540

    yes, it is acceptable if you are willing and comfortable doing it, whether you believe in it or not you have to really think about it- what would it do to the pt. or pt's family? what would it do to you? it would make you feel good, if you believe in it or it shouldn't hurt you it's saying some words if you don't believe. personally i would not want a non believer praying over me- but, god does love and listen to all. then again, if you really feel uncomfortabel then dont do it.
    i am not catholic- i just believe in a higher power and believe in christ as our example and that god is manifisted in him.




    Quote from mtnmom
    there is a companion thread in this forum about religion and nursing that made me think of this...
    have any of you ever heard of anyone baptizing a patient or know anyone that has???
    i once worked with a nurse who had worked picu and she kept holy water in her locker...had used it once or twice on her patients...apparently a lay baptism is permissible in the catholic church if a priest or deacon is not available. all one need do is sprinkle the water on the person and say "i baptize you in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit".
    it sounds reasonable to me....and i can't say that i would not do it if i had an infant or child in grave condition and knew that the parents were either not involved with the child or had no religious affiliation. of course, if the parents had religious beliefs, and they were other than christian, i would not dream of doing it - i would fully respect their belief system.
    i just wanted to open some dialogue here on the subject....please be nice! i just really want to hear what you all think.
  14. by   RN Rotten Nurse
    As a quaker, I certainly would not baptize anyone as I don't see the point in it or anything ceremonial or symbolic, really. I would however try my hardest to find a priest or someone comfortable with baptisms for the families sake.

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