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,
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.