ethical issues

  1. I am starting nursing school in the fall. I am also a devout Catholic. I'm concerned about potential conflicts between my beliefs and what I may have to do in clincals. Anyone have similiar experiences, suggestions?
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   janleb
    I am curious what kind of conflicts? I am catholic and haven't ran into any that I can think of. I focus on the pt and what is right for them not what is right for me. What they can live with. you are going to run into many different cultures and beliefs. The big issue for Catholics is abortion for example. Here is how I look at it, I personally could not have an abortion but it is not my job or duty as a nurse to tell anyone how to live their lives. Nor would I ever attempt to. This is a good post I would like to hear others.
  4. by   essarge
    The only conflict with catholicism that I know of is the issue of abortion. I haven't heard anyone having to deal with that in clinicals. One of my instructor's once told me that if I had a question about something I was asked to do make sure to say something with a good solid foundation as to why I felt I couldn't do a particular procedure. When the issue of abortion was brought up, she stated that we had the right to not have to do that when it was in clear violation of our beliefs, but we still needed to discuss it with the instructor before we went to that particular clinical.

    Hope this helps.
  5. by   MollyJ
    Probably the most common conflict (and it is surprisingly rare) is taking care of the client requiring an abortion or having post-AB complications. Since most AB's take place in outpatient settings, it's not that big of a deal. Nurses that hire on in those situations have decided that the ethics are comfortable for them. Catholics may also not want to do care of tubal ligation patients, IUD patients etc. I am Catholic and due to my personal ethics, I would not prefer to work in a clinical setting offering abortions. In my old nursing school setting, we simply could opt out of a clinical situation that offered us conflicts (the rare AB).

    BTW, many Catholic docs and nurses do not feel conflicted by caring for contraceptive clients. I worked in a Title X (contraception) clinic for several years and did not feel that conflicted, though some nurses I know definitely would. On the other hand, some docs (both Catholic and other faiths), will not order cotraceptives for their unmarried female clients, but they are usually willing to refer patients to a doctor that will. Actually, my ethics are significantly offended by women who have children outside of the context of a stable relationship, but I don't feel the need to tell the patient this so the conflict mainly occurs within me. Ultimately, I was more comfortable with the prevention of pregnancy than intervening in high risk, teen families.

    Technically, the church frowns upon IVF and artificial insemination, I believe. I guess nurses that work in those fields have to find that comfort level with what they are doing if they happen to be Catholic.

    Again, most end of life care offends me not because it prematurely terminates life, but because the patients are endlessly drug through the knot-hole of one more medical intervention. Conversations with a priest will likely reassure you on this point. The church does not require families to needlessly prolong a life when their is no hope of meaningful existence. One of my former clients was a vent dependent child with a very poor quality of life and his Catholic parents were endlessly reassured by priests that the church did not require them to continue what they were doing. They did elect to continue it however. This is not too atypical. it is often the family that opts to continue to fight the good fight.

    Catholics and religiously/spiritually motivated nurses often (but not always) make good nurses. I guess in general a religious or spiritual tradition that helps you to be patient and to understand that suffering is sometimes part of life simply helps you to cope with what it is you see. At the same time, weekend shifts, weird hours eroded my affiliation with my church. I often went to church to be present in body but not mind or soul. It was hard to be part of a church. Weekends were so precious that sometimes you didn't go to the church event; you did something else. Now that I don't work shifts, I find myself rediscovering my church.

    Also had a (not Catholic) nurse colleague who would try to "convert" ventilator dependent people in my ICU over a decade ago. This was a source of chagrin to all of us and simply not appropriate.

    Nursing teaches you to be sensitive to a lot of different traditions and really can broaden your own spirituality.

    By no means are the ethical dilemma insurmountable.
  6. by   Bonnie Blue
    Thanks for the replies. I have spoken to a few others about my questions. I plan on speaking to my clinical instructors early on so that I don't have any problems later. I'm hoping that this topic will spark some friendly discussion.
  7. by   shyviolet78
    Bonnie Blue,

    I am also a devout Catholic and have similar concerns. Because of my beliefs, I know that ob-gyn nursing is not for me. I know that my beliefs on certain issues in this specialty, such as abortion, contraception, and certain fertility treatments, would prevent me from being the best patient advocate I could be. My interests lie in critical care and I can also foresee some conflicts there, specifically with end of life decisions. I am not the kind of person to try and push my beliefs on others and I respect persons of other religions and do not view my beliefs as superior to theirs. However, I would not be able to assist in procedures that my religion is not in agreement with. I suggest that you speak with your priest to clear up any gray areas you may not be sure of. Also, not sure if you've heard of the Couple to Couple League (Natural Family Planning stuff), but they offer several pamphlets, including Humanae Vitae, which you might find helpful when discussing your concerns with your instructors. I believe their website is www.ccli.org. Sorry I can't offer more help, but I'm still a ways off from starting my own clinicals.

    Valerie
  8. by   essarge
    Well said Molly! I think the thing to keep in mind is that the world is diverse and that not everyone has the same beliefs. Respect is very important no matter what the setting is and keeping "consciously quiet" about a procedure that a patient has chosen is a good rule of thumb for any healthcare provider. It goes to the old adage, I think, that if it was meant to be it will.
  9. by   fiestynurse
    I am Catholic. But, I am Pro-Choice and do not agree with the Pope on many issues regarding family planning. Although I won't be ripping up any pictures of the Pope, like Sinead O'Connor, I do think he's living in the dark ages. But, I still go to church and take communion. Tisk, Tisk!! As a Catholic nurse I have run into many ethical dilemmas, but they usually don't involve reproductive rights. I try to separate my beliefs, from my patient's beliefs. I respect and honor all religious and cultural aspects of my patients. I worked many years in Ob and had nurses who did not want to be involved in certain procedures because of religious beliefs. We always honored that and assigned them to do something else. It was our hospital policy and we had no problem with doing that. And there are Catholic Nursing Schools and Catholic Hospitals, that many Catholic nurses feel more comfortable at. It is very important that you discuss your religious beliefs with your instructors, just in case anything comes up in the course of your clinicals. Best Wishes!

    [ May 30, 2001: Message edited by: feistynurse ]
  10. by   JennieBSN
    Bonnie-

    It is the LAW that you are allowed to opt out of certain procedures if you have a religious conflict. Plain and simple. Funny I should read this....we were just talking about it at work the other day.

    Anyhoo, I'm not Catholic, but I work with a devout Jehovah's Witness. When she has a pt. requiring a blood transfusion (j.w.'s are opposed to that..), she has another nurse (or the MD if all the nurses are busy) go get the blood from the blood bank and hang it for her. That's just an example of how we work with her and her beliefs. It would be wrong for us to force her to do something she's morally opposed to, just as it would be wrong for HER to force her beliefs upon her patients. Just be up front with your instructors, and remember...IT IS THE LAW that you have the right to opt out. I also think speaking with your priest is a good idea.

    Good luck!
  11. by   CarnesRN
    Fiestynurse you can't be Catholic and prochoice it doesn't work that way and you shouldn't be receiving communion. Birth control ivf and abortions are not up for discussion the answer is no period. Catholic nurses shouldn't be working on a unit that deals with abortion or ivf and should not be giving or advising for birth control.
  12. by   Bob_N_VA
    Um, this thread is over ten years old, so probably you won't get a response from her. But you seem rather hard line about it all, and I wonder how well that jives with everything you must see working in the ED. I would take a more live and let live approach to it, its not my place to judge others.
  13. by   ParkerBC,MSN,RN
    Quote from CarnesRN
    Fiestynurse you can't be Catholic and prochoice it doesn't work that way and you shouldn't be receiving communion. Birth control ivf and abortions are not up for discussion the answer is no period. Catholic nurses shouldn't be working on a unit that deals with abortion or ivf and should not be giving or advising for birth control.
    Wow! I am Catholic, pro-choice, and gay. I already know I am going to hell in a hand basket, but I assure you it will be a fun ride! You are exactly why people are leaving parishes. Your overbearing, holier than thou, in your face response is not well received by most, I'm certain. To say a person should not take communion or label themselves as Catholic because of things they do not believe in is not your place. Get off of your high horse and taken your rightful place in society.
    Do you believe it is right that the priests who have engaged in sexual activity with minors should be allowed to be part of the church? They broke the law and should have been punished. Rather the Vatican paid off the families in order to brush it under the rug. Now, that's a religion to be proud of!

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