Question for atheist nurses

  1. I am just at the very beginning of my nursing education, so forgive me if I am being presumptuous, but my preliminary understanding of the nurse's understanding of the human is that we incorporate body, mind, and spirit. Those of you who profess atheism, do you utilize this understanding, or do you see humans as strictly body and mind? or something else I'm not thinking of? TIA!
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    About pre-nurseshan

    Joined: Jul '12; Posts: 143; Likes: 57
    Student; from US


  3. by   missnurse01
    I don't think this comes into play at most places you work at. Yes we all look at a person holistically, their whole being. So if the pt or family needs spiritual support, there are usually non-denominational clergy employed by the hosp that can visit. Social work also asks these types of questions to ensure that pt's are receiving all types of support that they think that they need. Treating the spiritual side of the person sometimes is just that 'other' part of them, the part that we can't touch or see, but know we effect with a smile or kind word. It is not expected that you sit and pray with a pt, or agree with their beliefs. It is expected that you respect their beliefs and do what you can to get them what they need so they can have peace within themselves. I liken it to that good feeling you get after a yoga class, lol.
  4. by   loriangel14
    You can still be considerate of the patient's spiritual needs without sharing the same (or any) religion.The key is to be respectful.
  5. by   llg
    A person can be quite spiritual without believing in a magical creature called "God'. Atheism and spirituality are not mutually exclusive.
  6. by   babyNP.
    llg, care to elaborate? Are you talking about polytheistic religions? Pardon my ignorance.
  7. by   exit96
    I believe the term "spirituality" has lost it's definition over time. Ask 100 people and you will get 100 different answers.
  8. by   llg
    Quote from babyRN.
    llg, care to elaborate? Are you talking about polytheistic religions? Pardon my ignorance.
    I'm sorry for not answering this question earlier. I didn't see until the post until today.

    In the broadest sense, "spirituality" is that realm that deals with a person's belief systems -- about the nature of the universe, his/her place in it, etc. Those beliefs don't have to include ANY supernatural being. A person can believe in a supernatural being "behind the scenes" running everything (mono-theism or "God") ... or they can believe that their are multiple supernatural beings (polytheism)... or they can believe that there are no supernatural beings and that things exist because of the forces of nature playing themselves out (atheism).

    An atheist can experience very profound feelings of awe and wonder at the power of nature ... see beauty in the universe ... experience profound connection to it all ... find meaning in their existence ... hold strong moral values ... etc. without having to add a god figure to the mix. With such possibilities, atheists can be deeply spiritual. I have been told more than once that I am one such a deeply spritual atheist.
    Last edit by llg on May 30, '13
  9. by   tnbutterfly
    Just to add..... When atheist nurses are dealing with the spiritual needs of Christians, it would be best to not refer to God as a "magical being". Those who believe in God do not view Him or His power as "magical".
  10. by   llg
    Point taken. I didn't use the word "magical" to offend anyone. I was just trying to not use the same word ("supernatural") multiple times in the same paragraph. I went back and edited the post to avoid offending people.

    Thank you.
  11. by   MedChica
    I cater to the pt's needs. If that includes 'the spiritual'? So be it.

    I've repeatedly read from the Psalms to calm a resident. I've jammed out to Amy Grant with a pt. My first hospice patient, I sang hymns with the family. I've discussed spiritual matters with a pt. I mean, I spent enough time in private school and church. Of course, I can wax poetic on these matters.
    I fake the funk at work, often. I don't talk about my non-belief because it's not work appropriate and I don't want anyone saying ugly things or treating me differently. If you're a doubter, you have no idea how rude some can be. Certain religions who shall remain nameless routinely request for tolerance of their faith when they're the least tolerant of anyone who disagrees with them or worships differently.
    ...and they wonder why militant atheists exist....
    I have a CNA who talks to me about Jesus and church 24/7. It's rude. I with it, I guess.
    You can get mad about it but why bother? That's just the world in which we live. Majorities are usually oblivious and uncaring to the feelings/needs of the minority.

    All in all, religion isn't that serious, to me. Spirituality? I don't think about because I normally don't care about things like that. I don't get the sense that I'm surrounded by the unseen so why would I?

    Doesn't mean that I don't wonder about things. Despite my doubt, I've never stopped seeking and never will. I just wish that I could find better answers.
    LLG mentions 'awe'.
    Yes... I'm just in awe of this universe. Nature. I see beauty and order.
    If this is 'gods' handiwork then it is utterly perfect. Religion has inspired man to create beauty, I'll say.
    Nothing appeals to the core of me like classical.
    Nothing brings me to tears like the 'Miserere'.

    I confess that I am not a true atheist. I'm agnostic but a strong doubter, nonetheless.
  12. by   suredoloveyou
    "The English word spirit (from Latin spiritus "breath") has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body. The word spirit is often used metaphysically to refer to the consciousness or personality." -Wikipedia article about the spirit

    When I think of a spirit, as an atheist, I think of what makes you, you. Your beliefs, the way you react, the music you like. A culmination of all of your life experiences that has made you the person you are.

    I can rattle off percentages, medical lingo and other things to calm a patient's mind but when it comes to treating the spirit, I appeal to emotions. Kind actions, kind words, things like that.
  13. by   jadelpn
    I was raised in a pretty strict Southern Baptist church. I was a kid, didn't know better, did as I was told. Took a great deal of comfort in the hymns, the service, the fellowship. As I grew older and realized that for me, what organized religion stood for (and not ALL, just in my experience) was in stark contrast to how I felt about a number of things that would be "sinful". I married a Catholic, have a child just this side of nunnery, one that debunked Catholicism as a "myth" and changed her religion, and the list goes on and on. I admit I have a religious buffet. I like a lot of a number of religions. I can't give up Jesus, though, so I pick and choose parts of a whole that I find humbling, comforting, and makes sense to me, and is inclusive to the people I love, and the causes I support.

    With all that being said, it is not about me. It is about the patient. I have helped stage Wiccan rituals, Orthodx Jewish end of life rituals, and music with old school hymns.....because it was for the patient. I don't particuarly care if you worship Ralph, the Head of Lettuce (and I would run to the store and get you a Ralph, if you needed that) my job as a nurse is to make sure that a PATIENT'S spiritual needs are met, not my own.

    Being an atheist in your life is your business. Knowing what spiritual needs (if any) your patient needs is your business. So a nurse incorporates a PATIENT'S mind/body/spirit to provide care. This is why there are clergy of various faiths in your facility. In your Town. Know how to contact them. Then your job meeting your patient's spiritual needs will be met, without your own beliefs having to get into the mix.
  14. by   SkepticRN
    I respect the patient not their religion. If they want to observe their religion, I'll do what I can to assist but I will not participate in those observances in any way. I am always very polite and courteous whilst doing so. I have the hospital chaplains pager # on the back of my badge to call them in at the first signs of danger... lol