Do You Have To Be Religious/Spiritual to be a good Nurse? - page 5

I'm struggling with this to an extent. I go to a deeply religious school and yes, I hate it. At times I feel as though it's a major requirement to be religious in order to function as a nurse and I... Read More

  1. by   anonymurse
    James 1:27 says "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."

    You'll notice this is a pretty good overall description of nursing. What exactly is religion? The apostle John says "God is love," so it would appear here that religion is the action of disinterested love, disinterested meaning impartial--without being 'spotted' by a personal interest, without considering that there might be anything to gain from your patient or her family--and this is reflected in good boundary setting, which maintains a nurse's ability to think and act straight (that is to say, in the patient's best interest). What I see here is that James considers religion to be the action of disciplined love, a fair description of good nursing. So just from your own personal standpoint, you can feel comfortable that you can do those things James said and not deliver any less care than someone who claims a formal religion.


    Now someone raised the subject of reassurance. You can do that as a non-member of the patient's religion. You can use their own knowledge and experiences to guide them to a recollection of the certainty they felt at some religiously significant moment in their lives, and that remembrance will surely comfort them.

    Before I was a nurse, I visited a Christian friend in the hospital. He just learned he was dying, in fact he was going to die very soon. He was worried about not going to heaven (this is different from worrying about going to hell). If heaven could be earned, this man would have had the penthouse, the way he spent his whole life taking care of others and never addressing his own dreams. But he was in distress and worried. And I did what anyone can do. I ran the checklist with him, and here it is:

    Romans 10:8 "But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,"

    Now here I asked him, "OK, did you take Jesus to be your lord, or your spiritual boss, in front of others?" And he said "Yes."

    "and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead,"

    I asked him, "And do you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead?" And he said "Yes."

    So I said "OK, let's see what it says:"

    "thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

    I said, "Well you did those two things, and right there the Bible says you're saved. OK?" And he said "OK." And he was OK.

    See there? You don't have to be Christian to say those things.

    Another thing I learned from an ER guy is that you don't have to be Catholic to administer last rites. Seems anyone at all can do that, and if you can't get a priest there in time, at least you can ask one over the phone how to do it on the spot. He had to go and I didn't get a chance to learn the details, but it's a useful thing to tuck away in the back of your head.

    But now I'm going to tell you that if your facility has a chaplain on call, you get her over there pronto, because if the hospital hired an expert, then you let the expert do her thing. It's not exactly out of your scope of practice, but it's not exactly in your scope of practice, either, and if you have a credentialed resource, it would be good nursing judgment to refer that aspect of the case to her.

    I don't mean to say some nurses aren't experts in their religion or even others, I'm just saying that the field of pastoral care is a mine field, and the chaplains have maps that say where the mines are buried and I for one don't.
  2. by   weemissnaughty
    I think it depends on n the person, you dont need to personally be religious but need to respect others religion.... I have an athiest friend (im vagely catholic but defo religious if n my own way) and she feels the need to prove herself right and argues about how its ridiculous to believe in god and wont accpt others religious beliefs
  3. by   somenurse
    Quote from weemissnaughty
    I think it depends on n the person, you dont need to personally be religious but need to respect others religion.... I have an athiest friend (im vagely catholic but defo religious if n my own way) and she feels the need to prove herself right and argues about how its ridiculous to believe in god and wont accpt others religious beliefs
    Dear Wee Miss Naughty,
    This atheist pal you describe, she is a nurse and does this with her patients?

    I have seen and experienced many many theists, and a few deists, who do not accept my atheism, for decades. Very common reaction. It's kinda hard to find ANY atheist who doesn't' know what that feels like, it's THAT common. Lol, most of us kinda half-expect that!! Many of us have experienced arguments, and most atheists on this thread, have mentioned, that being 'out' at work, can bring on's that common for atheists to face------is not having OUR ideas accepted.

    But, even among my theist coworkers, i don't think i've ever seen a theist nurse try to convert a patient, not ever. OH, i've heard tons of single remarks here or there,
    or very brief conversations,
    but a concerted effort to convert a person and end up arguing with a patient? while on the clock? never saw it, that i can recall, anyway. Maybe some discussions occurred i was not witness to, like if some patient and nurse had some discussion initiated by the pt, well, maybe that happened and i just don't know about it.

    Nor have i ever, ever, seen any atheist argue with any patient on the clock, either.
    I am guessing you are, instead, referring to either facebook, or some gathering of your pals, not a healthcare facility. But, that's just my guess.

    I am an atheist, and i do not accept religious beliefs, nope, i have accepted none,
    but, i will defend each person's right to think what they want to, i'd even defend another atheist's right to think what they want to. But i am against rudeness completely!!

    but yeah, on facebook, or online,
    many an atheist do find outlets to speak their mind, as it can't really be done very safely in real life, without ending up with hostility usually,
    but, the atheists probably figure, if you don't want to discuss that topic, you'd leave the thread, but, who knows. Because many an atheist IS so often accused of 'being rude', many to most tend to take extra care to be polite, (i'm referring to adult atheists, not teens on facebook)
    still many will accuse an atheist----no matter how polite she is------ of "being negative" if they so much as state they don't believe, or ask "hard to answer" questions, etc, ------that is often perceived as "being negative".
    and there are, of course, both rude atheists, and rude theists,
    and even some rude deists or agnostics, too.

    but, we all should take care to try our best to not lump entire groups of people together as "all" the same. No group of humans is ever all just alike, that presumption is always gonna be a fail.
  4. by   Esme12
    I worked with a very competent, good nurse who was a Jehovah Witness...that although she went door to door to witness on her time off she NEVER argued/spoke/witnessed religion to any staff member, patient, or family member. She would respectfully bow her head in a room where there was prayer or last rights, etc out of respect for the patient and families beliefs because she is a good person, has manners, and left her private life/personal beliefs at home. This was a young to the profession. I remember when in casual conversation one night she spoke about her beliefs....I was so surprised....and proud that a nurse that I had mentored had so much respect, maturity and professionalism!
  5. by   somenurse
    Yes, Esme, i can not recall any time i witnessed a nurse trying to convert a patient, especially not to the point of arguing, whether the nurse was a theist, or a deist, or an atheist, or an agnostic, i can't recall ever seeing that happen. I think the person annoyed with an atheist she knows, is probably NOT referring to a nurse dealing with a patient,
    but, that's just a guess.
  6. by   somenurse
    also, Esme, so far as i know, a Jehovah Witness IS a christian, but that branch has recognized and rejected the pagan origins of the christian holiday celebrations. The JWs are actually right on that, the christian holidays all do have pagan origins, and some of the holidays-------the christians didn't even bother changing the name of the holiday Like Easter------old festival every spring, for eons, celebrating the fertility goddess Eostere---- who arrived to earth in a giant egg, and rode on bunnies

    It's not clear to me, whether Eostere was a very tiny goddess,
    or if these were very large bunnies.. OH, the fertility goddess, Eostere is where we get the word "estrogen" too.

    ....but, most of the holidays, the christians DID change the name of the pagan holiday. but, somehow, the JWs recognized, these 'christian' holidays do have a very strong pagan or even secular origin or component. The JWs also won't celebrate anything but Jesus, so birthdays, 4th of July is out, too.

    No holidays...but, still believes in Jesus, as son of god, rose from dead, etc etc etc. Still a christian, uses the bible, etc.

    Various branches of christains are against various things, from driving cars, playing cards, booze, caffiene, blood transfusions to vasectomies to birth control pills, to not wearing magic underwear, wearing clothing with buttons, dancing, eating beef on fridays in the spring, etc,
    each sect has their own rules
    they are all still christians, and all worship the bible gods.

    but i can not see how this christian JW nurse bowing her head while prayers were said, was any kind of stretch against her own religion, unless you are referring to a non-christian last rites or prayers.(?) So far as i know, JWs have no stance against public or group prayers(although the bible says to go in a closet and pray in private )

    Yes, like many to most religions, JWs see their religion as the only true religion, but, i can't see how standing there while christian prayers were said, would be a stretch for a JW---who is also a christian---- but, maybe there's something i don't know about JWs being able to stand in same room while prayers to the same god she worships, are said.
    Last edit by somenurse on Jan 16, '13
  7. by   AvidAdvocate
    This is so lovely. I'm a lifelong atheist too, about to graduate nursing school, and I am not very open about my beliefs to my classmates and definitely not to co-workers. I love the spring-boarding answer, as I am hoping to work in a pediatric ICU, and I assume that I will get these questions more often than not.

    Just a thought...I know it's illegal for them to ask..but I've heard some really religious hospitals have a round-about way of asking about your faith in interviews. If that situation does come up, what kind of answer would you recommend?
  8. by   JWG223
    No. However, you do need the people skills to interact positively with everyone on the spectrum from atheist to pious. That said, I do have a personal rule. I never work for the church. It doesn't pay, and it almost always means that you're expected to do things other employers would never consider burdening you with. All of my experience in the past with it was nevative. I'm not a martyr or trying to develop Stockholm syndrome. I'm an employee trying to earn a living.
  9. by   Soliloquy
    Hey guys! Wowowow! I'm surprised this thread still has some steam as I had forgotten I'd even posted it almost 4 years ago to the date! It's good to revisit.

    I am a bedside nurse now and my experiences have been...interesting. Religion took a backseat for me after I left but some things did remain. Depending on what state I worked in, I experienced more religiosity than others. Usually from patients but sometimes staff. I tend to avoid it and it was never as "in my face" as it was when I went to my deeply religious school. I did have a coworker who was Atheist who mentioned to me that a patient he had kept trying to convert him and I have found that when I am quiet when my patients try to go into the "Jesus speech" that it can make them feel unaffirmed and sometimes attempt to preach more. But at the very least, my difficult experience at that school taught me tolerance and helped me assess what my own boundaries are. I don't go to church,

    Some things did remain for me. Mainly, the experience with "group think". I know it's not just limited to nursing. But I'm starting to understand my own boundaries with this as well and have begun to attempt to make moves away from the bedside role as I feel it can foster that kind of behavior as well. I'm a bit more of a solitary/ hermitic for the experience of bedside nursing.

    I'd tell my younger self and those wondering the same thing I was, that you don't have to be religious/spiritual to be a good nurse. Just know your boundaries/limits and don't be afraid to walk if it becomes too much.
  10. by   JadedCPN
    Quote from somenurse
    No, one does not have to be religious nor even spiritual to be a good nurse.
    I am a lifelong atheist, and have been very effective at comforting all types of ppl, facing all types of issues, and have even worked hospice.

    I learned decades ago, that my being an out atheist at work, is not helpful. I was very young, i made mistakes at first. Atheists (not that YOU are an atheist, but, i am) are not usually trusted by non-atheists. Once or twice, i was even re-assigned at the patient request, when he asked me if i believed in god, and i replied no. He said he couldn't trust an atheist.

    that is when i learned how to respond in a more therapeutic way. Each person has to find their own way, but, i think being non-spiritual, could be similar to a religious person caring for a person of another faith. I'd imagine, or hope, that say, a christian nurse, in caring for a jewish or muslim patient, for example,
    would be able to honor and respect that patient, even though they do not worship the same gods.

    Imo, it's kinda like that as an atheist.

    I step over their gods all day long. It's surprising, how often a nurse gets asked, "Nurse, do you believe in Jesus/God/Lord,?"
    Turns out, the patient usualy does not want to know,
    and when they ask this, they are more hoping for a springboard for their own self to discuss their beliefs, or how their beliefs are helping them in this crisis.

    I have close pal, who is an atheist doctor, and he and i chuckled, in the combined 94 years of medical service between us,
    not once,
    has any patient ever noticed, we do NOT actually answer the question. For real, the patients don't even notice. and not one of our coworkers knows either one of us is godless, either.
    I am not "out" AT WORK. I myself rather wish, that ppl left politics and gods out of their workplaces, but, i step over these topics. Frankly, i dislike being ostracized by others for having a different opinion,
    and i honestly do not have time to have debates with either coworkers or patients. In fact, i think it'd be rather unhelpful, to debate a patient, unless in a joking fashion. Each person has a right to their own beliefs. (even me)

    I simply find another way to reply. I reply with remarks like, "Is your faith very important to you?"
    and after they've went on for a while, i change subject gently, or, if it seems appropriate, offer to summon a preacher/minister, etc.

    If they ask, "What church do you go to?" this is usually code for, "I want to tell you about MY church!"
    so instead of answering, i usually say something like, "What church do you belong to?" and rapidly follow up, some other question about that church, "Is that a large church?" or "How long have you been a member there?" or "Must feel comforting that so many are praying for you, they must really care about you."

    I do not ever lie. I don't partake in religious rituals, such as prayer circles around the bed, etc. That is the one line i won't cross, in some small way, to be true to my own self, however small and silent that might be. INstead, i look at my watch, and say, "Oh, i have to go pass meds/change a dressing/call a doc/check on patient" something, and leave room.

    This moment is not about ME.
    this moment is about my patient.

    WHATEVER comforts my patient, is what i want to support, whether or not, i believe in that god.
    As an agnostic-atheist nurse myself, I can't like this post enough times. I follow the exact same codes myself, I 100% respect whatever religion/belief that people follow even if I think it is ridiculous at times but I never let them know that and in 10 years have never disclosed to a patient that I didn't believe in a god, while at the same time never lied to a patient either. And I completely relate to your comments about being "OUT" as a nurse. It would be easier for me to be out as a bisexual nurse than it is to be out as an agnostic atheist, and that's a shame.
    OP to answer your question as many have, no you do not have to be religious to be an amazing nurse.
  11. by   softrbreeze
    I know exactly what you mean and it annoys me to no end. I can't stand people that think they have the right to talk down to you because they make more money or are higher on the ladder. Everyone's job is necessary and it is important we all work together, each recognizing that we are simply a cog in the wheel. Not to say there isn't a chain of command but that chain is there to serve a purpose, not give someone free rein to act like an ass. It could also be a clique-thing. You may need to job hop a bit to find one you feel at ease with. Find your niche and purpose and you will feel more at ease with your job.