Religion and psych nursing

Specialties Psychiatric


I'll be graduating this December as an ADN. I've discovered that I enjoy psych nursing and seem to have an aptitude for it. My teachers have been encouraging me in this direction as well. However, I'm worried that my personal belief system would leave me feeling that every coversation I had with a patient was a version of "Hello Kettle, my name is Pot and I'm here to call you black". My personal belief system allows for the seeing of auras and spirits, and the belief that through the power of the will a person can affect changes in their life. That sort of thing.

I've been told by people (not nurses) that if my mind got any more open that my brains would leak out my ears.

I also realize that my student interaction and observation didn't give me the whole picture of what it is to be a psych nurse. But for the first time since starting school I discovered something that, not only was I good at, I actually enjoyed doing. I really want to go into psych nursing, but there's a persistant worry that my belief system will cause me problems. I live in a VERY conservative area and revealing my beliefs would cause a lot of problems for me, so I don't feel safe revealing this aspect of my dillemma to my teachers or fellow students.

Any advice on this would be much appreciated. Being a new grad, most places wont take me without a contract that holds me for a good long while. I don't want to get stuck being a hypocrit for two years.


221 Posts

what you mean by 'hypocrite'

what would you be faking?

the big secret about psych

is it doesn't matter what you think or believe

it is behavior which counts...

I work on an involuntary psych unit

we have staff with all sorts of religious ideas

including Wicca

so long as you can reality test

are functional and

have no need to proselytize

you should feel free to follow your heart


239 Posts

I think having an open mind is a major prerequisite for being a psych nurse. You;ll see and hear lots of things that are probably outside the realm of your personal experience. One of the first things you learn as a psych nurse is to keep your personal information to yourself--and that should include your spiritual belief system, regardless of whether it is mainstream or not. I've worked with nurses who want to talk about God and religion with patients--and not at the patient's instigation. I think that is totally inappropriate, especially for an involuntary psych admission. It comes too close to coercion. The nurse's primary role in a therapeutic interaction is to listen to the patient, not share is or her personal beliefs.

Do you see auras and spirits? I don't, and I'm not sure that I believe that such things are visibile. I do believe that there may be some people who are highly empathetic and sensitive to others who pick up many cues from people and the sum of these cues might be interpreted by those persons' brains as auras. If you are that good at reading people, you could be great as a psych nurse.

While you may believe that auras and spirits are visible, it would not be appropriate to share these beliefs with a patient. You can be pretty sure that if someone is hospitalized with hallucinations and/or delusions, it's not because they are seeing auras and spirits. It's usually because they are hearing voices telling them to kill themselves or other people. In my experience, visual and auditory hallucinations of patients are rarely benign and helpful.

We generally don't spend a lot of time trying to convince someone who is in the midst of hallucinating that what they hear and see isn't real, we usually focus on reassuring them that they are safe and that we will keep them safe, that nothing can get into the unit to hurt them. Wouldn't you be able to do that without feeling like a hypocrite?

I'm not sure I'm making my point. Keep your personal beliefs to yourself, do not reinforce hallucinations. If someone is hospitalized, there will probably be more disordered thinking and behavior going on than seeing auras or spirits, so you won't have to worry about being a hypocrite.

Do you worry that you will also see what the hallucinating person is seeing? Or that you can't in all honestly say that "there is nothing there" when you believe that there might actually be something visible only to the other person? Would you be comfortable saying "I don't see that" or "We will keep you safe." That's usually all that's necessary.

good luck with whatever you decide to do,


sanakruz, ADN

735 Posts

Well said, Luci.


221 Posts

I want to clarify

my 'witchly' co-workers

are not instigating religious talk with patients

[neither are the Catholics, Baptists or Buddhists]


on the other hand

over the past 30 years

I have seen great postive change in psychiatry

regards spirituality:

whereas the topic used to be almost taboo

not only do we now have chaplins available

we use them!


25 Posts

I have no desire to try to convert anyone to my belief system. And I'm not the type of person who desires to discuss my personal life with patients or my co-workers. While my psych experience has been limited, I felt at the time that discussing the patients concerns was WAY more important than chatting about myself. (and I'm uncomfortable handing personal information out anyway).

I realize that most people in psych facilities who are having hallucinations are having unpleasant or dangerouse ones. I feel comfortable being factual such as telling a patient that I don't see what they do or that we will keep them safe.

I guess part of what's going on for me is that I often found myself understanding psych issues more from the point of the patient than the nurse. We would be discussing an issue (like domestic violence or eating disorders) and I would do very well in class and on tests because I understood it. While all around me my classmates were making comments like "how am I supposed to know what crazy people think?" or "why would Anybody do/think/feel that?". And because I do believe in things that other people dont... I guess I'm worried that I'll be crazy too. I already understand it. How far a step would it be from understanding to experiencing?

Putting it so baldly makes it seem very silly. I'm sure there is a better way to communicate my feelings, I just don't quite know how. But just knowing that there are people out there practicing who aren't strict atheists or there to "save the ill with the power of prayer and conversion to the Lord" helps (which was pretty much the only religiouse feelings I found in my student experience).

Thank you. Just knowing it's out there helps immensly.

And in response to another post asking if I saw auras... it's not something I discuss.. but yes I do. I actually found that it was helpful to me, sort of giving me a little advanced insight to what might be going on. I've always had an aptitude for picking up on people's emotions and being able to be a soothing presence. I don't rely upon it... but that sensitivity comes across to me as a sort of...color in my head. It's a bit hard to explain. I don't share that information normally. But I thought it might be pertinent.


239 Posts

Thanks for clarifying--for us and for yourself--what your reservations are. I wasn't sure from your first post. I wasn't being critical if that's how you interpreted my post, just trying to cover all the bases as to what you might be concerned about.

There's a huge difference between understanding and experiencing mental illness. I think understanding it from the viewpoint of the patient is invaluable. The only problem I might anticipate is if you tend to empathize too much with the patients vs staff and facility policy, you might tend to get pulled into conflicts more readily. Many psych patients are also sensitive to points of "weakness" in staff and can and will exploit those. I have worked with someone who identified too much with patients and was constantly bending the rules for them. It created chaos and turmoil where what is needed is structure and predictability.


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