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

  1. 1
    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 didn't always feel this way but this is what I keep seeing. I like myself, know what I like and dislike, what I want to do, where I'd like to go, but I'm not religious (certainly not Catholic) and the only link I have to Christianity is my liking and connection to the Bible. My "spirituality" is derived from my ability to trust myself unconditionally. But being here has made me wonder if I have to be solidly spiritual/religious in order to thrive in the world of nursing.

    Also, I'm not one for groupthink and dogma and at times I feel as though many of my peers are and the professors seem to expect it. I don't kiss up to authority figures and treat everyone as a person regardless of status (all people, as far as I'm concerned, deserve respect and if I unable to provide that, I avoid them). But it drives me crazy the way they behave and they find me to be very antisocial/unsocial and distant. I'm none of these things, but just feel as though I'm fully capable of thinking, feeling, and acting on my own and for myself. Yes, I ask for help when I need it and I am friendly, but I don't feel as though I have to put my desires on the back burner if I don't have to.

    I'm struggling guys and really just feeling uncomfortable with all the feedback I keep getting. I'm about to be in the real world and I want to make sure that IT is not like my college experience.
    somenurse likes this.
  2. 57 Comments so far...

  3. 15
    Short answer -- no, you don't.
  4. 18
    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.
  5. 12
    Being sensitive to the spiritual needs of the patient...yes required.
    Having a spiritual or religious faith yourself...no, not required.
    lotus1, Heinz beans, somenurse, and 9 others like this.
  6. 11
    lol, i just recalled, how often, i, as an atheist, have even comforted religious ppl facing death,
    without ever revealing i am not in their boat.

    For example,
    once, a patient of mine, a kinda tough biker dude, who was facing death, and i had developed a very good bond/trust. He asked me if i believed in god. (again, this is not an uncommon question in the critical care areas of a hospital, and does not reflect the pt wants to know, instead, it usually indicates a need for THEM to talk about THEIR ideas or worries or concerns or joys).

    I replied, "do you?"
    and he answered he did, but, that he had not ever been to church for decades, and he felt he had sinned quite a bit in his life, and he went on to say, that he felt he would probably go to hell.

    He was most obviously afraid of hell.

    I told him, something like, "I don't know you super well, Bill, but, you sure seem to have a very good heart, and i'd imagine, that if there is a god, it'd be a perfect god, and a perfect god could see the good in you. You must have done something right in your life, as your family adores you. Near as i can tell,you seem way too kind to be sent to hell, but, if this is a concern on your mind, maybe it'd be best if i send for a chaplain, who can further help you discuss this?"


    stuff like that. Bill never realized i was an atheist.


    hint: my advice, is, do not reveal yourself to be an atheist to your coworkers, either,
    as they will treat you differently. For real, they will. Long after you have forgotten you ever told them, they will bring it up, "Oh, but, you are an atheist" here and there, which always surprized me.
    also,
    they'll pepper you with all the usual questions, like,
    "Well, if you are an atheist, why don't you just go kill ppl?"


    Thing is, to the Original Poster above,
    you still have your heart. You will feel your heart speak to you, just like any other nurse, throughout the day. No gods required. You will sob, just like everyone else, when the baby dies.
    YOu will feel joy and awe, when the child learns to walk on that prosthetic.
    You will ache, when your patient's daughter never does show up that night.
    You will feel wonder and thrills, when a last ditch effort does work.

    no gods are required to share in those moments. I say, gods are optional.

    Just be yourself, follow your own heart, your own inner moral code, and the honor to be present at so many huge moments in so many ppl's lives. Those moments are not about you, it's their moment.
    Last edit by somenurse on Nov 26, '12
  7. 4
    also, to the OP,
    you can't really be too surprised,
    to attend a religious school,
    and discover,
    that they throw religion into a lot of discussions, and attract a lot of religious students.


    (my impression is, that you are student at christian school?)
    llg, nursel56, Esme12, and 1 other like this.
  8. 2
    Well, if you go to a deeply religious school, then you will see all those religious practices. It is normal and expected. If it is that much uncomfortable for you, go to a regular school that doesn't focus on religion. Regular schools don't usually have that type of requirements, fyi.
    For the question; no.
    llg and Soliloquy like this.
  9. 0
    Quote from Jean Marie46514
    also, to the OP,
    you can't really be too surprised,
    to attend a religious school,
    and discover,
    that they throw religion into a lot of discussions, and attract a lot of religious students.


    (my impression is, that you are student at christian school?)
    I should've gone to a non-religious school but I was very naive about the dogma and thought that the religious aspect of things would've been within reason. It took a major toll on me and I guess it's because it wasn't up to my expectations. Nevertheless, when I get out into the hospitals, I see a lot of very religious nurses and techs and even though I believe in God and I'm familiar with the Bible, I've experienced a lot of dogma and so I didn't know if it played a major role in the world of healthcare. Patients are patients. But does it affect your interaction with your peers and superiors?

    at my school, it did for me as I found that they weren't comfortable with me speaking to them as people but rather wanted me to react to them from the basis of their title.
  10. 1
    Quote from Soliloquy
    at my school, it did for me as I found that they weren't comfortable with me speaking to them as people but rather wanted me to react to them from the basis of their title.
    Not sure quite what you mean by this -- but it seems to me like a v. different issue than whether one needs to be religious to be a nurse. If you're talking about respecting a "chain of command" and not being overly casual/familiar with superiors (faculty or bosses), that is something you can expect to encounter most places in healthcare ...
    somenurse likes this.
  11. 5
    Quote from elkpark
    Short answer -- no, you don't.
    Nope, you do not.

    All you have to be is culturally competent and accept all people from all walks of life. You do not have to agree with what they practice, but you should respect it.


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