When is it appropriate to share faith at work?: One nurse's story
This article will discuss my personal views on when it is appropriate to share your faith at work. Religion can be a touchy subject for many. Some are offended when you mention religion. Others are comforted. Where is there balance in this? Let's discuss this further.
As nurses, we wear many hats. To name a few: we are caregivers, providers, assessors, comforters, encouragers, teachers, an ear to listen. Are we to be evangelists or preachers? In my opinion, no and....yes. I believe that it is appropriate to share my faith when the patient has already started the conversation and I am adding to it. Here are a few stories to make my point.
It was 6:40 pm. Twenty minutes left until shift change. (At last!) Of course, this is when my new admit wheels down the hall. I knew she was coming so I was able to finish my other duties and check on other patients before she arrived. I greeted the patient with a smile and introduced myself. She said hi and smiled back. She said "You're a Christian aren't you?" She saw the look on my face that said "Wow, how did you know?" She then smiled again and said. "I can tell by your smile, you have a glow of happiness. You must know the Lord." She was a very spiritual lady.
She was there for 24 hour cardiac observation. We talked and shared our love for the Lord for a few minutes while I checked her vitals and got her settled in her room. We prayed for her situation. She also prayed for me and then I said thank you and goodbye. I went on to shift change report. We both left that situation blessed and at peace.
One more. Some time ago I worked in a surgery center preparing patients for surgery. A patient walked in to my area and sat in the chair. My job was to screen the patient and start an IV. We hit it off from the get go. We learned quickly that we were both Christians. (You know, the smile/glow thing?) I only had one arm available to start an IV due to health issues with the other arm. She also said that she was a hard stick and from her body language she didn't like needles. I tried once but wasn't successful. She asked if anesthesia could start the IV. I let the doctor know and went on to my next patient.
She was a very difficult stick, small veins that blew easily. The doctor and a few other nurses tried with no success. I was busy with my new patient but would look over to her wishing I could hold her hand while they tried to start her IV. When I finished with my patient, I had a moment to go talk with her. She was almost in tears. She really didn't like IVs but could not have surgery without it. Surgery was needed. The doctor did not want to postpone the surgery if possible. When I went to the patient I saw one vein on her hand that was like a neon saying "pick me! pick me! I'm the one!"
I asked the patient and anesthesia if they minded if I tried "one more time". The patient said ok. I didn't want to use a tourniquet. I will have the patient hang their hand over the chair. "gravity is my friend" I always say with hard stick IVs. When I hang their hand over the arm of the chair, I need to be lower. I will put the stool low or sit on my knees. I was on my knees and the patient grabbed my hand and started praying. (She read my mind, I wanted to pray too.)
We both prayed, quietly, only loud enough that we could hear each other. I prayed that God would use this situation for His glory. That it would be a witness to others in the room that God can do anything. Even something as easy as calming a patient and getting a good IV. After we finished praying I was about to start the IV. I started praying again while I was starting the IV. I instantly felt her body and hand relax. I got it! She was so happy. She gave me a big hug and a peck on the cheek.
I found out later on that at her post op visit she described the whole story to the staff at the doctor's office. She couldn't remember my name but I was "the little angel who started her IV".
Times like these stories, this is when I believe it is appropriate to share. When the patient starts the dialogue. If it is started by the nurse and the patient is not a believer I think it can come across as unwelcomed. We as Christians are to go about the world spreading the good news. But I believe this should be done on our own time, not our employers.
What about you? Do you like to share with your patients? Any thoughts?Last edit by Joe V on Jan 20, '14
About nursefrances, BSN
Nursefrances has been an RN for 4 1/2 years specializing in Telemetry and Opthalmology. She has been a Christian for 24 years. She is also active in her church as a worship leader when time permits.
nursefrances has '6' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Ambulatory Surgery, Ophthalmology, Tele'. From 'USA'; 44 Years Old; Joined Dec '08; Posts: 3,661; Likes: 5,691.May 6, '13 by tnbutterfly, BSN, RN AdminThanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences about sharing your faith. It is during times like those that you mentioned in which both you and the patient can feel the blessings of the presence of God.
I agree that it is important to take cues from the patient.May 6, '13 by BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP GuideVery nicely written, nursefrances. I completely agree with you that it is best to let patients initiate discussions about faith, and that the nurse (or any other caregiver) must always be respectful, whether or he or she shares the patient's faith or not, or agrees with the patient's viewpoint. It sounds like you've had some lovely experiences with your patients.May 6, '13 by That Guy, BSN, RN, EMT-BI dont share with my pts because I dont believe in religion. I hate when people ask me to pray because I just stand there looking like a doofus. But if it works for the pt/nurse whatever, I think it is great.May 6, '13 by Dbohr1012A long time ago before I started working in the medical field I went in to visit a friend who was a suicide attempt. I must have looked so lost and helpless standing at the doorway and the nurse approached me and ask what my relation was. I said close friend from out of state. She then asked if I wanted to pray with her for my friend. Im not super religious but it felt right and at the time there was nothing else I could do for my friend. Like I said Im not religious but it felt good to do anything for my friend, even if it was just prayer.May 6, '13 by CathRNI once had a patient at the hospital I was working at the time, new admit, got vitals and admission data, started her IV fluids and she asked me to pray with her. I did and one of her visitors asked me if she could pray for me. As she held my hands and started her prayer, she began to tell me things about my life (and no, I had never seen her before in my life) and then she anointed me (yes, that was a surprise). But what a peaceful encounter, that was years ago and it still stays with me.May 6, '13 by Steve123Well, sharing faith means preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. Talking about God with some one who already knows Jesus does not mean sharing faith.May 6, '13 by BCgradnurse, MSN, RN, NP GuideI think sharing faith has a much broader definition than what the previous poster states. It's certainly not exclusive to Christians. Many, many religions have people of great faith who share their views with the world without exluding others. Look at the Dalai Lama, for instance.
I also think sharing faith with a patient can be as simple as being a caring presence for them. No dieties need be involved-human spirit can be enough. Faith means different things to different people.Last edit by BCgradnurse on May 6, '13May 6, '13 by fibroblastBeing a Christian 'R.N.' is also not allowing the devil to come in. The doctor is not always right and the nurse has to follow what the dr. says.May 6, '13 by imintroubleI sometimes say a prayer when I start an IV, or perform a painful procedure on a pt. It's personal, silent, and the pt doesn't share that moment with me. I would be extremely uncomfortable praying with a pt. If I WERE the pt, I would not be comfortable with any nurse who prayed aloud in front of me.
My religious beliefs are my own, and I don't think my place of employment is where they need to be shared.
The above is just my personal feelings. I would have no problem with any of my fellow nurses behaving as the OP did. That's just not me.May 7, '13 by TopazLoverWhen my DH was in ICU and had just had a stroke the intensivist met with us. He asked us if we had any faith. My DS is a very fundamentalist Christian. We disagree about much in religion. I had so little faith then but willing to do anything at that point. The doctor had us all join hands and he prayed with us. A gentle prayer, I have no recollection of what he said, it calmed all of us.
Two days later, they removed DH from the machines. Again this wonderful doctor was there, supporting us as he turned off the ventilator that was providing a pretense of life. He took my hand and all of us including DH's mother and my two sons, all held hands together as we all repeated the 23rd Psalm.
This man's quiet presence and love of God was willing to give us a bond that we needed after he had explored to be sure it was not offensive to us. It took a great deal of time for me to find faith. I know this man's offering in a horrible time has helped me to accept a gift that I might have not been able to without seeing real faith in action in such a hard time.May 7, '13 by nursefrances, BSNQuote from That GuyI appreciate your post. And yeah, that's my point. The awkwardness that one is put into.I dont share with my pts because I dont believe in religion. I hate when people ask me to pray because I just stand there looking like a doofus. But if it works for the pt/nurse whatever, I think it is great.
I don't "do" astrology. I remember so many times patients or other people would ask "what's your sign?". And no they weren't hitting on me.
I would say. "I don't really follow that but I think I'm a libra." And leave it at that.May 7, '13 by Liddle NoodnikQuote from nursefrancesIt's funny because when it happens to me, *I* feel like the one who is supported. I'm sure they do too but I really feel blessedTimes like these stories, this is when I believe it is appropriate to share. When the patient starts the dialogue. If it is started by the nurse and the patient is not a believer I think it can come across as unwelcomed. We as Christians are to go about the world spreading the good news. But I believe this should be done on our own time, not our employers.
What about you? Do you like to share with your patients? Any thoughts?