atheism religion and religious hospitals


I am an atheist. I work in a non-religious hospital. I like what I do, but there are 2 closer hospitals to me that are both religious. One Adventist and one Catholic. I really don't know how I'd feel working at a religious based hospital, since I feel that somehow I'd be "supporting" the religion. Is there a way of just thinking of it as a "job" without the ethical dilemma of working at a place that supports differing religious beliefs? (Not just geared towards atheists, but I know there are a lot of religions and the employees of various hospitals may not be working with the same one they believe in?) I also work in an area with a good amount of other beliefs like Jewish and Muslims.

So, more I'm asking how do you justify to yourselves working in a place with different spiritual values, or would you avoid that from an ethical standpoint.

(I really could go for a job 3 miles from home, I mean, I could walk it!). Just having a hard time wrapping my heart around it.


12,646 Posts

Has 25 years experience.

I'm agnostic/atheist, raised Catholic. I worked in a non religious hospital for over 20 years. Now I work in a public HS and as a HH RN at a very Catholic based agency.

So far there has been no conflict. If there ever was, and I felt my morality was being compromised somehow, I would weigh my options and look elsewhere if I had to.

I've never had an issue with patients praying or talking about God, so that doesn't affect me at all. Ironically, more than half of the patients I see are Jewish.

They did have a daily prayer with announcements when I worked in the office, and I just sat respectfully...and thought about coffee.

The only issue I could see myself having was if a woman wanted/needed a TOP, but since HH doesn't really have a place in that it has not come up.

Good luck and keep us posted.


1 Article; 2,675 Posts

Specializes in ICU, LTACH, Internal Medicine. Has 10 years experience.

From my own and others' experience, religion-based hospitals are hotbeds of bigotry and some other things that much worse. Although I am sure there are some exclusions, overall one better fly under radar for years.... or choose another place to work.

vanilla bean

861 Posts

I've worked in 2 Adventist hospitals over the years. As a sometimes agnostic/sometimes atheist, I had no issues. I kept my personal beliefs to myself (as I continue to do at my present non-religious workplace). I didn't worry about "supporting" the religion, I worried about supporting my patients in the best way that I could. Like Far, I sometimes had to observe a "moment of silence" (as I considered it) while prayers were being spoken but it didn't bother me as I just used the time to take a moment for myself and my own thoughts.


14,633 Posts

I've worked in a few different religious hospitals over the years (not Catholic), and haven't had any problems. Although the organization wasn't shy about its affiliation with the denomination, there was no requirement that employees be of that faith, or any faith, and I was never made to feel uncomfortable about not being a member of their group. I also never perceived myself as receiving any different treatment as an employee because I was not a member of the group. They were usually quite open about how they were committed to diversity within the organization.

When I worked for an SDA hospital, they had a policy that all meetings, including shift reports, were supposed to begin with a "devotion." The hospital provided a little booklet of devotions for that purpose, and the group leader was supposed to read one of the devotions from the booklet, which concluded with a short prayer. Most of the people I knew there just ignored that policy, and I never saw anyone get in trouble for that. On the occasions in which I was present when someone did read a devotion, they were quite bland and general. Just "warm, fuzzy thoughts" more than anything else. If someone was so vigorously committed to atheism that you would be uncomfortable sitting through something like, "Dear God, Please help us all have a good day, Amen," then, yeah, you probably wouldn't want to work at an SDA hospital. But, IMO, you'd be missing out -- the religious hospitals at which I've worked in the past have been really good employers and the "better" hospitals in their areas.

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatrics, Wound Care. Has 11 years experience.
From my own and others' experience, religion-based hospitals are hotbeds of bigotry and some other things that much worse. Although I am sure there are some exclusions, overall one better fly under radar for years.... or choose another place to work.

I don't really think the area I live would have much religious bigotry. The whole city is a very diverse group of cultures. So, I'm sure the hospital patient clientele would represent the city. The staff are also likely pretty mixed (the current place I work, not religious, I'm one of the few Americans). So, I'd expect a similar makeup at the hospital.

I am just having difficulty basically working for a company that has religious views that, in some ways, go against the things I support. I would wonder if I used their insurance, how hard would it be to get an IUD. Are they one of the companies that doesn't support a woman's access to birth control. Would they have their patients die before performing an abortion, etc. Granted, I wouldn't be working OB/GYN, it is more me wondering how I feel about working for a company that has those beliefs.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

I am an atheist/agnostic who has worked for 2 Catholic hospitals. Both were large places with a diverse staff and patient populations. I had minimal issues with it. I focused on meeting my patients' needs and the needs of the staff and didn't focus on the fact that I disagree with some aspects of that religion.

At one hospital, we did little devotions/prayers/etc. before meetings, too. When it was my turn, I would read something secular or non-Christian, but interesting and inspiration. I had several people tell me that they really liked when it was my turn to lead the devotional because I always shared something "different" from the usual fare. It gave me pleasure to inject something new and different into their environment.


14,633 Posts

I would wonder if I used their insurance, how hard would it be to get an IUD. Are they one of the companies that doesn't support a woman's access to birth control.

That is something that you would want to, and would be able to, check out before accepting a position. The insurance at the religious hospitals at which I've worked offered the same women's health coverage as any other insurance I've had. The SDA hospital did have a policy of not doing abortions in the hospital, but that was rarely an issue, as the vast majority of abortions are not done in hospitals in the first place. There was only one time in the two years that I was working there that I was aware of an issue with this; a local OB/GYN with privileges there didn't realize that he couldn't admit a client of his and do an abortion there. There was a little brouhaha about that at the time, but, of course, the woman was able to get the procedure somewhere else. I wasn't happy about that, but the hospital didn't do anything to try to keep her from having the procedure somewhere else -- they just didn't permit it within their facility (regardless of the reason).


1 Article; 1,101 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Rehab. Has 5 years experience.

I get your concern/dilemna. But working somewhere closer to home might be worth having to deal with a less-than-perfect work situation (wait, ARE there any perfect work situations? :^).

Without being real specific, I took a job in my previous career that compromised my larger views, but it got me to a part of the country where I wanted to be. And because I rarely work with people who share my political/social/religious views, I almost never talk about any of those with anyone at work either, unless I find out (usually by accident) that they do think like I do. But even if we have little in common outside of work, I always make 'work friends'.

heron, ASN, RN

3,791 Posts

Specializes in Hospice. Has 51 years experience.

I'm not getting how an atheist working for a religious-affiliated hospital would be unethical. Does the job description include religious practice or speech? Are you required to present proof of baptism or to profess religious beliefs in order to get hired?

Why do you feel that being paid by a religious organization to provide non-religious services constitutes support for religion? Wouldn't that also mean that you would be ethically obligated refuse nursing care to anyone with religious beliefs, regardless of setting?

It could be argued that religious organizations choose to provide health care because they consider caring for the sick to be a religious obligation, which would make nursing itself a religious practice. But that would make nursing itself unethical for an atheist, wouldn't it?

You certainly have the right to avoid working in settings that offend or make you uncomfortable, but that's about personal preference, not ethics, in my opinion. Tolerance =/= support.


293 Posts

I am a Christian and work as a nurse for the public school system. I know this is very different from what you are talking about but in some ways the same. I need to be aware not to use religious language in a secular job. No conflict. Nursing is a compassionate field. I can carry out my faith without speaking about it. I think the same would apply to you in a religious hospital. I doubt your employer would have the requirement of you participating in their faith as long as you were able to be respectful of those who choose to.


389 Posts

Specializes in ICU, trauma.

I can relate to this. The mission/vision for the establishment i work at is to bring to life the healing ministry of Jesus through our compassionate care and exceptional service. It's a catholic hospital that routinely says morning and night prayers over the speakers along with other faith-related practices.

that being said, although it causes no direct conflict; it is unfortunate that i don't share the same mission as they do. And at times i can feel slightly....uncomfortable (if that's the word im looking for? Like obligated to pretend i'm something i'm not. With that being said, it was my choice to work here so what can ya' do?)

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