When is it ethical to talk about religion with a patient? - page 7

I was talking with a collegue the other day and she described a conversation with a pt where it sounds as if she were basically evangelizing. Now I had been told by my pastor (Catholic priest), who... Read More

  1. by   Miss Calculation
    this is a really interesting topic. when reading the posts just now i was reminded of a conversation i overheard yesterday. two men were standing ahead of me in the checkout line. they were doing the usual small talk thing. suddenly the first one says, "do you know jesus as your personal savior?" the second man was a little taken aback, but replied that he had his own spiritual beliefs and that it was a personal thing. the first man finished his transaction and left, saying, "bless you brother". the second man was insulted that he was asked such a personal question by a stranger--everyone behind him got an earful! the first man, in his zeal to get a convert, probably turned the other guy off forever. this clueless guy probably thought he'd just "planted a seed".

    anyway, something this personal needs to be shared within the confines of a close and mutually respectful relationship or it's meaningless. a nurse/patient relationship isn't normally one of those relationships--we just don't have the time. but, we should always listen and respect our patient's spirituality no matter what and do whatever is within our power to comfort the patient. i liked bsndec06's response: "is there any way we can accommodate your religious or spiritual beliefs during your stay?" that kind of response shows sensitivity, kindness and respect.
  2. by   GardenDove
    Hit and run evangelism really turns me off. St Francis said "Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words"
  3. by   nurse4theplanet
    It is ethical to talk about religion with your patient when the intent is to meet the patient's needs. Whether you agree with their religion or not does not matter.

    I have prayed with patient's/families before, but I let them take the lead. Even if our religious views match to a tee...I still keep my personal involvement in such matters to a minimum, because it takes the focus off the patient and places it on me. (my views, where I go to church, who else goes to my church...typical questions you get down here in the south).

    Absolutely offer to call a priest/preacher/chaplain for your pt if they are having spiritual or religious distress. These officials can offer my pt much more in that area than I can.
  4. by   Epona
    Hey... I would just like to know (there is alot of talk about what religion one believes in.. baptizing babies and so forth)... CAN WE TALK ABOUT RELIGION WITH PATIENTS OR IS THAT A NO-NO. I am a new nursing student and your advice is appreciated!!
  5. by   Tweety
    Quote from Epona
    Hey... I would just like to know (there is alot of talk about what religion one believes in.. baptizing babies and so forth)... CAN WE TALK ABOUT RELIGION WITH PATIENTS OR IS THAT A NO-NO. I am a new nursing student and your advice is appreciated!!
    Yes, it's o.k. When I admit the patient I ask their religion, it goes to a data base to our chaplain. A volunteer later offers Catholics communiun. I also ask if they would like hospital chaplin visits.

    It's o.k. to talk about their religions. If they ask then it's o.k. to talk about your religion.

    To approach a patient for the express purpose of saving their soul because you know as a Christian they are going to hell for eternity if they don't accept Jesus Christ as their savior that is wrong. Or if you're any religion for that matter. Or if you're an athesist to Christian/religion bash to a patient is wrong.

    It's all about the patient and their needs.

    Hope this helps.
  6. by   theoldsicilian
    Dove you say it seemed the other rn was trying to convert the patient, but you weren't there for the entire converstion and don't know how the patient received this. it is all too possible that the nurse and the patient were discussing religion and each expressed their own opinon. i have discused religion with many of my patients without trying to convert or change their beliefs. i work in both the ed and the icu.
  7. by   RNsRWe
    I have to say how pleased I am that a thread that has the potential to become volatile has been met with so much civility.

    Barring one example only, I believe each person has brought forth meaningful exchanges for nurses (or ANYONE who works within the healthcare industry with immediate patient contact) to reflect upon.

    It's all about the patient's needs being met, not about our needs to preach or dismiss.

    Thank you all for the discourse.
  8. by   KaroSnowQueen
    I am a Christian, but do not press my beliefs on patients. If they ask, then I will pray or stand by while they pray (joining them in their prayer), but I do not and have not tried to "convert" anyone while on duty.
    The only sort of weird thing I have had to deal with was several years ago while working in LTC. Had a pt go from a&o x3 and fairly healthy to declining rapidly. The pt had gotten to where they did not speak any longer, and the family went to the social worker in a state of panic. "Mom" had never been saved, and although the family wasn't Christian, they were "nothing" I think, they wanted to know "Mom" was in Heaven.
    The social worker came to me and told me this. With the patient's family and the social worker at the bedside, I (with the DON's approval), said to the patient something like this:
    "Helen (not her name), I hope you can hear me. Your family is here with us and they are very concerned. Your health is poor and we fear you may not live. Your family wants to be assured they will see you in Heaven and have asked me to do this." I then, in a few sentences shared on how to be saved and accept Christ as her savior. I finished by saying, "I know you may have heard this for many years, and I know if you are capable of hearing and thinking that you may wantto hear this now. If you don't want to do this, it is your choice, but your family wanted you to hear this now."
    The patient never indicated in any way then or later that she heard any of it, and we never knew, but the family was relieved and felt better.
    Oh,and back in the early 80's in nursing school we were taught to baptize any baby unattended by parents that might be dying. We were told to find out the parents religious association when they arrived, and IF APPROPRIATE, tell them of the baptism. I'm sure that's not correct in this day and age.
  9. by   JeanettePNP
    Quote from KaroSnowQueen
    Oh,and back in the early 80's in nursing school we were taught to baptize any baby unattended by parents that might be dying. We were told to find out the parents religious association when they arrived, and IF APPROPRIATE, tell them of the baptism. I'm sure that's not correct in this day and age.
    Where were you taught this? The practice was to baptize first, ask questions later?
  10. by   storm06
    I usually ask the patient if they have any spiritual or religious needs that we can help them meet while they are in hospital. Best time is while you are asking the stock standard dob, adress, age, ect. No one has ever told me they have been offended by the question, they say no, I go onto the nursing assessment. They say yes, and I ask them what I can do to help. I am more than happy to make phone calls or track someone (or something)down for them.

    When I was a grad (such a long time ago!!) I had a Muslim patient who was palliative care. I developed a good relationship with the family. When she went into a coma I asked her husband what religious considerations did we need to observe when she passed. He took the time to explain what was needed and was happy to answer my questions. This was a very postive experience for me, and the family. If I had not asked, I would never have known. In this instance it was appropriate to talk about religion, to meet the need of my patient and her family. Religion can be a sensitive subject and sometimes its hard to know how to ask if a patient needs spiritual or religious needs while in hospital. But for me I would feel as though I was not caring for my patient if I didnt ask. You can ask with out being offensive or sounding judgemental.

    I ask about the patients about THIER religion, their pain, their condition, their surgery, their medications ,,,,,,, they don't want to know about my religion, my pain, my medical problems or the prescription medication I take.

    I get a bit hot under the collar with the subject of nursing and religion as I had a bad experience as a young adult. I have a strong belief, but it is my own, and while I dont agree with everything my chruch preaches, I do not want to be converted. I had a bad bout of gastro when I was 17 and was in hospital overnight. Mum had gone somewhere and the admit nurse was asking questions. I relplied Catholic to the religion question, and at that age I didnt really know that other religions existed. So I had no idea what she meant when she asked me if I could speak in tounges. Of couse I could speak with my tounge,,,,, I then got told that unless I could speak in tounges I would never get into heaven and would spend the rest of my life in hell. I was young enough to be saved and I should turn to Christ,, quickly.Then she left, never to be seen again (and at that age I thought it was because I was a bad person for not speaking in tounges, what ever that meant)

    This haunted me for years (very very very over it now) but the fact that I am over it now does not mean it doesnt get me steamed up at times. It made me feel my own faith was not enough, I was doing something wrong that would anger God; and having had the fear of hell beat into me as a child, I was teriffied.
    I questioned my own faith, while I was in hospital, sick, scared and that night, all on my own. I should have been worried about weather or not I was going to be able to eat breakfast in the morning. I was to scared to go to sleep in case I died, because I had to find out what speaking in tounges meant before I went to meet my maker. I believed in a physical hell,,,,, and was sure that I would spend eternal damnation in a fiery pit.

    I am not really sure what point I am trying to make. Just that I dont want to see sick venerable people feeling worse because their faith has been questioned in a hospital. Or the patient feels they have to listen to a nurse trying to convert/preach because they have to. I personaly believe that it is never ok to preach, convert, evengelise at the bedside. But,,, that is my belief. I know that that experience led me to investigate what 'speaking in tounges' meant and from there i developed a fasination with different religions. I enjoy learning about them, and ultimately it led to a stronger inner faith for my self and the religion I grew up with.

    For those who think it is ok to preach at the bedside; how would you feel if you or a family member was vulnerable, in hospital, sick, confused or emotional and someone told you that one of the things you most hold dear, your spirituality, your faith, was wrong. Would you feel hurt? Angry? Fear?Disagree? Would it make you want to question your own faith? Is this something you want to feel while you are sick in hospital?

    Nurses do not have the right to question their patients spirituality. There are other places and other times, outside of the hospital. If you feel the need to preach the word of God there are more appropriate places than the bedside of a hospital.

    Just remember that your word of God is not necessarily someone elses word.

    Wow this has been quite cathartic. (I have written and re written and double checked like it was a uni assignment!) Maybe I still hold a bit of resentment towards that nurse and that is why I feel so strongly. I sincerely hope my comments have not offended anyone as this was not my intention.
  11. by   RNsRWe
    Thank you for sharing that deeply felt story, storm....and is yet another example of why we as nurses are there only to support the patient's needs as expressed by the patient (and/or family) rather than the needs the nurse feels the patient has because of the nurse's own beliefs.
  12. by   GardenDove
    Well, I had a pt tonight ask me if I was saved, lol. That's a first.
  13. by   nurse4theplanet
    I've had a pt try and convert ME before. I'm Catholic and I live in an area that is predominantly Southern Baptist. This was during clinicals at a Catholic Hospital to beat all! It was pretty awkward.