Nursing as a Science and Religious Consideration in Healthcare

  1. Now... this is how I feel and I'm looking forward to other's opinions regarding the matter:

    I consider Nursing to be a science and religion should have no part in the treatment we give patients. Since as a future nurse, I know that I will have to deal with pt. from all different backgrounds, as a nurse, I would have a problem not giving a pt. a life saving treatment due to his/her personal beliefs. I would not do it, out of respect, but as far as my own morals go, I would feel incredibly remorseful. The first one that comes to mind is Jehovah's Witnesses refusal of blood transfusions.

    I'm not trying to down religious nurses out there, because I consider myself to be a very spiritual person as well, but when it comes to the Nursing profession, unless a pt. request to go to a religious hospital/facility, religion should have nothing to do with the treatment they receive. I'm very torn on the issue and again I'm looking for honest, educated, and/or philosophical opinions to help me decide on this issue.

    PS I'm looking for a discussion on this subject, so feel free to go off on tangents away from my personal questions... within reason.
    Last edit by Alois Wolf on Nov 30, '07
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  2. 24 Comments

  3. by   Kyrshamarks
    I normally do not agree with you on anything but on this I have to agree with you completely.
  4. by   Jolie
    Illness and other life-changing events (birth, death) are times when people tend to turn to religion for "answers", guidance, comfort, etc. While I don't believe that it is within the scope of nursing practice to "minister" to a patient, I do believe that we must be respectful of others' religious beliefs and attempt to incorporate their religious beliefs into their care. This may be as simple as dietary choices, private time for prayer, allowing the presence of a religious symbol, or contacting clergy to visit a patient, or as complex as respecting a patient's wishes to decline a treatment (blood, vaccine, transplant) once they have had the risks and benefits fully explained to them. I don't believe that it is ever appropriate for a nurse to provide religious "counseling", or attempt to persuade a patient to accept any particular religious faith.

    I have practiced in both religious and non-religious hospitals, and found the staff at the religious facility to be somewhat more understanding and accepting of patients' faith beliefs and requests. I think that had to do with the training provided during orientation regarding supporting patients' beliefs, regardless of their faith.
  5. by   Tweety
    I'm very scientific minded myself and consider nursing a science.

    I also strongly believe in patient centered holistic care. This includes addressing the patients spiritual condition and needs, and keeping my beliefs out of it.

    Catastrophic illness and injury, as well as like was mentioned above birth, etc. are times when our patients are going to turn to their spiritual beliefs and we should non-judgementally support them.

    If a person's religion states they are to receive no blood transfusions even if it kills them there is nothing I can do about that, and I decline to judge them or their religion. If someone, and this has happened to me, believes that laying smelly cabbage over a wounded area and praying helps heal, I'm not going to interfere. Am I going to personally lay the cabbage and pray? No I'm not because I'm a scientist and I don't believe it will help, but allowing them their beliefs is paramount.

    I also support our religious peers who when asked by the patients to pray for them, actually do pray with them. This is nursing in my opinion as well. I'm talking when a patient asks for it, not shoving their religion down their throats. Again, it's not my thing and if a patient asks I'll gently steer them towards the chaplain.
    Last edit by Tweety on Nov 30, '07
  6. by   MNmom3boys
    I think Tweety nailed it on the head w/ the "patient centered holistic care"

    A patient's beliefs are are part of them, and directly shape how they react to events in their lives - those morals, values, spiritual thoughts (whatever you refer to them as...) cannot (and will not) be checked at the door. They not only are an intergral part of every patient in some form or another, but they also affect how the patient will react to you. Your job is to check your religious (or not) beliefs at the door and meet them where they are w/out judgement and realizing you are taking care of a whole person with individual needs, not a just member of a belief system.

    Whether we like it or not science, healthcare and religion cannot be completely detached from each other mostly because we are treating people who have thoughts, feelings and values about all three things.
    Last edit by MNmom3boys on Dec 1, '07 : Reason: why do I see the typos after I hit post?
  7. by   MNmom3boys
    BTW - (as per normal, thought of this after I posted...)
    I would also submit that nursing is an art as well as a science. And part of that "art" is showing compassion for those we are caring for whether we share their belief system or not.
  8. by   Alois Wolf
    *nods* I agree as well that nursing is an artistic science. I really appreciate everyone's comments on this subject.

    I think it's correct that ones spiritual beliefs can have such a profound effect on someone that it can actually complement the medical care that they are receiving (whether you want to believe in a Higher Power, or power of suggestion is up to you).

    Though I may disagree with their reasoning, I now see how my hands must be tied when it comes to a pt. wishes and as a future nurse who will try to keep a scientific mind, I think it would be hypocritical of me to place my own "feelings" and "beliefs" into another pt. self-advocated care.
    Last edit by Alois Wolf on Dec 1, '07
  9. by   Ivanna_Nurse
    Hey all... I also agree that nursing is a science, but I also have to say that there is the holistic portion, as Tweety has mentioned. When some one is diagnosed with cancer, I help alleviate the physical pain with scientific interventions. There is no scientific intervention that is going to help alleviate anxiety, fear, heartache, anger or any other emotional aspect. This is where the non science part lies. I know that I dont need to be scientific to empathetic, to hold their hand show that I care and to be a spiritual person, However... I DO need the empathy, caring and spirituality in myself to be a nurse. For me, science alone just isn't enough. There are lots of days when I go home and I pray for my patients, and their families. I pray for myself too; to have the knowledge and use the science as well as the tenderness. Sometimes, tenderness goes where science will never reach. Just my thoughts... Cheers~ Ivanna
  10. by   Alois Wolf
    Quote from Ivanna_Nurse
    Hey all... I also agree that nursing is a science, but I also have to say that there is the holistic portion, as Tweety has mentioned. When some one is diagnosed with cancer, I help alleviate the physical pain with scientific interventions. There is no scientific intervention that is going to help alleviate anxiety, fear, heartache, anger or any other emotional aspect. This is where the non science part lies. I know that I dont need to be scientific to empathetic, to hold their hand show that I care and to be a spiritual person, However... I DO need the empathy, caring and spirituality in myself to be a nurse. For me, science alone just isn't enough. There are lots of days when I go home and I pray for my patients, and their families. I pray for myself too; to have the knowledge and use the science as well as the tenderness. Sometimes, tenderness goes where science will never reach. Just my thoughts... Cheers~ Ivanna
    Good thoughts and you're right. Science aside, apart of being a nurse is being empathetic, caring and supportive of your patients situation. Spiritual or not, those are definite qualities that I think every human being, nurse or not, should have.
  11. by   Sabby_NC
    I think Tweety nailed it on the head w/ the "patient centered holistic care"

    Nailed it for me to.

    The bottom line is you must feel completely satisfied with who you are.

    Nursing encompasses so much more than it used too due to scientific research in all areas of nursing. These changes have enabled us to better learn how to care and work more effectively.

    We use the sciences to better treat or cure illnesses but at the same time we, as nurses, need to be prepared for anything that will be outside the 'realm' of scientifically based nursing care.

    RESPECTING what ever our patients wish to do or not to do.

    Depending on your spiritual/ religious beliefs you can pray for those patients if it is your thing and you are comfortable. Or do as Tweety suggested and contact the Chaplain.

    Learning all you can about patient rites, religious differences do and will encroach on your nursing skills and how you handle these will be paramount to the care of the patient.

    This is the 21st century and patients are well versed in their rights as a patient how they choose to have their care delivered.

    Working together as a Team with the ultimate goal of our patients in mind will, hopefully, deliver the best care out there and the knowledge that 'we' did it all for the people we choose to look after.
  12. by   LiverpoolJane
    I agree that our religious beliefs should not influence how we care for our patients.
    I see reading another recent thread it seem to be "open season" on Jehovahs Witnesses and I was distressed to see on this other thread people were venomous in their feelings towards them.
    I find this disturbing as I believe that I am a professional nurse as well as being a Jehovahs Witness.
    I work in an acute area where we have become really good at correcting anaemia without blood products. Of course we have patients who are prescribed blood and I would never try to talk them out of having this. In fact most patients would not get to know what religion I am as it is not relevant to their care.
    Likewise when Jehovahs Witnesses are admitted our Consultants have no problems about treating them without blood, they do not try to talk them in to having blood, their wishes are respected.
    I hope I show respect for the religious beliefs of all people I come into contact with.
    I have a problem when people are hypocritical about their religion, to sum up what I mean my mum (Catholic!) told me a story when she used to work in a GUM clinic. They had treated the same man several times for various STDs as he was quite partial to ending his nights out with any available female! When my mum offerred him condoms to use he said he couldn't because he was a Catholic and it was against his religion! Even my Catholic mum could not respect his decision to blatently break the "rules" but not minimise the risks while doing so!
  13. by   Diary/Dairy
    What an interesting thread.

    Tweety, Thanks for your great post!

    I went to a Christian college that still taught that nursing is a mission field. I sometimes think of it that way - these people do need our kindness at work......

    Does anyone else subscribe to Journal of Christian Nursing? I like it. Just wondering if anyone else reads it as well.
  14. by   pickledpepperRN
    This thread explains why no computer softwear can duplicate the nursing process.

    Thank you all who posted.

    I recently met a man in his late eighties who was hospitalized last summer.
    He remembers a nurse with a European accent holding his hand.
    A male voice asked her to go somewhere. She said, "my patient needs me now. You will have to find someone else."

    He attributes his survival to her.

    Thank you nurses!

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