What is PC way to discuss spiritual status with dying pts?

  1. Kind of jumping off of the "atheists & dying pts" thread, it got me thinking on this subject. Living in the heartland and working in the upper South, it used to be it wasn't wrong at all to ask your pt who was dying if he or she "had made their peace with God". I know working in the hospital the thing to do is to call the chaplain and let them deal with it if the pt desires.
    However, what about those who work in LTC? I remember several times when I used to work in LTC several years ago, the family would come in just frantic that Grandma/Uncle Bob/whoever was dying and wasn't saved, and just sure he/she would go to hell. The family didn't feel, for whatever reason, that they should bring it up, so they'd ask the nurses. I had no problem with it at the time, that is my personal view of religion, so I would do it, telling the pt that the family was worried, etc.
    Of course nowdays that would be very un-PC, and potentially offending to the pt to ask in that manner. Would a question about "peace with God" to a fairly alert pt be wrong in that circumstance, or just maybe a question about wanting to see a clergy person be more appropriate?
    I am asking this based on the viewpoint of the pt, who may or may not have a religious preference, not the nurse's religion.
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  2. 23 Comments

  3. by   Town & Country
    I am asking this based on the viewpoint of the pt, who may or may not have a religious preference, not the nurse's religion.

    Well if said patient is alert and oriented and you are asking based on their viewpoint, I would say it would be up to the patient to bring up such a matter. If they are aware of the possibility of imminent death, and they are alert, then that is their option to speak concerning their religious beliefs......or lack thereof.

    The family didn't feel, for whatever reason, that they should bring it up, so they'd ask the nurses.

    Well of course....just add "Preacher" to the rest of our duties. If the family couldn't bring it up with their own kin, pray tell me (no pun intended), why the nurse should?
    IMHO, this is completely unreasonable. Obviously, if the family didn't feel "comfortable" bringing it up then there is some sort of problem there. I would tell the family that I didn't feel "comfortable" bringing it up, either.
    What are they going to do about it?
    Why on earth should a nurse be called upon for such a task?'
    If they are unwilling then they had better call their Pastor, if they have one.

    On the OTHER hand, if an alert and oriented patient brought the subject up to me, I would have no problem whatsoever talking about the Lord and the afterlife. That would be totally different, and reasonable.
  4. by   Farkinott
    To simplify things don't ask " have you made your peace with God?" That is imposing personal values that may not be held by the person that really needs your care.
    Just ask "Do you belong to a church and would you like me to get a minister for you?" This will suffice. If you yourself are religious feel free to say your prayers for the patient (in private). If your patient professes to wish involvement in any kind of worship just let them. Of course if they want you to pray with them go ahead. All you have to do is heed the client's wishes.
    As nurses we can assist a client to have a "good" death. this is just as important as curing and sending them home.
  5. by   Ted
    Just ask "Do you belong to a church and would you like me to get a minister for you?" This will suffice.
    Couldn't have said it better myself. It's simple and to the point. It's "information seeking" and thus provides an opportunity to give any one person their special (individualized) care.



    Ted
  6. by   fergus51
    We don't even say church. We just ask if they feel they have any spiritual needs. I know in LTC when my grandma went in, they asked on admission if she belonged to any religious group.
  7. by   Ted
    Actually, fergus, it's how I word it too. On EVERY admission to our happy little unit. It's on that happy little "Nursing Admissions Data Base" (or whatever the heck it's called.)

    "What are your spiritual needs?" or "What are your cultural needs?"

    Or something like that. (I don't remember word for word. :imbar )

    Simple open-ended questions that can draw out a lot of information. . . when asked.




    Ted
  8. by   fergus51
    Yep, we never said church where I last worked since a large number of our patients went to temples or mosques. Now that I'm in California I'm surprised at how few other religious groups I work with. Seems like everyone is a Christian.
  9. by   Roland
    Couldn't you just say something like "what are your beliefs about religion and the afterlife." or even more simply "do you belong to any religion?." This would seem to cover most everything from Islam, and Catholics, to atheists and Wiccans.
  10. by   jemb
    I wouldn't ask about a 'church', either, but if they belong to 'an organized religion, and is there anyone from there that you would like to come see you?'

    Fergus, you must be in a different part of CA than I've ever been! Big variety of religions anywhere I've lived in CA, although, in recent years, the Christian proportion is getting larger.
  11. by   leslie :-D
    i like farky's response....it is vague and non-commital.
    spiritual needs/distress always need to be addressed.

    and just inquiring if there is a reverend, priest, minister, rabbi they would like to see, would suffice.

    leslie
  12. by   Jo Dirt
    My father-in-law is 80 yrs. old and a devout atheist. We brought him down here to an assisted living facility in the South to be closer to us(he is from Jersey). What bothers him the most is that three or four times a week crowds of church people pour through the facility praying for everyone and the only conversations they are interested in engaging in are ones that have to do with the Lord and Jesus.
    I don't consider myself an atheist but am not a church-goer and I understand fully what he means when he talks about what a turn off these people are.
    That is why I have made it a point to not even suggest religion to sick and dying people. If they are religious they or their family will let you know. I just ask them if there is anyone I can call for them. If they say "a minister" I'll do my best to see I can contact one.
  13. by   Roland
    Why do we have to be "PC"? Why can't we just use simple commonsense and ask a simple question straight up? It shouldn't be necessary to clear cut a forest to obtain enough paper with which to desribe appropriate questions. Either we should be providing "spiritual support services" or we shouldn't. If the conclusion is that we should (as we are currently taught in nursing school) then we need to ask the relevent questions that will make that possible.
  14. by   MZachry
    Everytime I have been admitted into a hospital, there has been a question about religious preference. Is this not noted on the pt's charts, or in the database?

    I've never worked in a hospital, as I am just starting school, but doesn't the hospital chaplain go around to the different LTC rooms anyway?

    I would think asking patients if they would like the chaplain, or someone else, to come speak with them would be ok. I would definately say a silent prayer for them, and their family.

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