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Praying for Patient May Cost Nurse Her Job

Caroline Petrie is a nurse who carry out home visits to sick and elderly patients. One day, she offered to pray for the recovery of a sick woman ... and now she may lose her job because of it!

Mrs Petrie, 45, is a community nurse employed by North Somerset Primary Care Trust to carry out home visits to sick and elderly patients.

The incident which led to her suspension took place at the home of a woman patient in Winscombe, North Somerset. "It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her. I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: 'Would you like me to pray for you?'.

"She said 'No, thank you.' And I said: 'OK.' I only offered to pray for her because I was concerned about her welfare and wanted her to get better."

However, after the incident on December 15, she was contacted by the trust and asked to explain her actions.

Andrew Alderson of The Daily Telegraph has the story: Link

What happened to the tolerance? I'm an atheist myself but I would be touched that someone cared that much about me to devote some of their sacred ritual to my wellbeing, even if it's something I don't follow. Instead of politely saying No Thank You, the trust investigates and threatens her? Wow what a way to reward kindness.
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I'm an atheist too, but I see no harm nor foul. There is the issue of the woman being told a second time about the issue, and the expectation to keep ones personal life separate from their professional life, but being fired over it is a little much. Unless there is an underlying issue, I feel it was wrong for them terminate her job.
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It's only fair to point out that she'd been warned before for committing a similar infraction.

I'm Christian but I understand that as a physician I leave my religion at the door. If I think a person would benefit from a prayer then I can do it in my head or on my own time. If a patient asks for a prayer or asks me to pray with them, then that's a different matter.

Let's not be so naive as to think there aren't some Christians (and people of other faiths) who could react badly to someone professing atheism. I've seen it happen and would not trust that a person would be guaranteed the same standard of care afterwards.

Back in Ireland I have friends whose relatives were abused, both physically and sexually, by religious clergy and the idea of something like this happening to them would really upset them. They wouldn't want religion brought up in conversation, particularly not when they are ill.

Professionals follow policies and codes of conduct to protect their patients/clients and themselves. The whole thing was initiated by the nurse. She knew the rules and broke them, repeatedly, so she has to face the consequences. End of story.
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As a nurse and an atheist, I actually find it to be quite offensive. Her personal life shouldn't cross over into her professional life. If she wanted to pray for her, she should've done so quietly and privately.

I think it's quite different if the patient asks to pray. When that happened to me when I was a hospital nurse, I politely declined and offered to call chaplain services for the patient.

Should she lose her job? Probably not. Should she do it again? Absolutely not.

Let the flames begin.
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this is a really misleading, inflamatory headline.

praying for the patient is not the issue here. if she was simply to have prayed in private, there would be no issue.

the issue is using her position to promote her religion in the workplace. the initial problem that started all this was handing out prayer cards to patients, leading to the following warning:

"Your NMC [Nursing Midwifery Council] code states that 'you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity' and 'you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health'."

which sounds reasonable enough to me. the nurse says:

"I was told not to force my faith on anyone but I could respond if patients themselves brought up the subject [of religion]."

which also sounds reasonable - let the patient decide if they want to discuss religion. unfortunately, the nurse was unable to keep her promise to only involve religion if the patient brought it up. for violating this promise, she's been suspended. it sounds harsh, but she'd been warned in the past, agreed not to do it and then went ahead and did it anyway.
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Hmmmm. The way I had understood the story the first time I noticed it (can't remember where, but it was last week or somesuch) I had the impression the patient had asked her to pray for her. In such an instance, the trust would be stretching their authority if they gave her the boot.

But, if she actually offered to pray, without knowing the patient's standing to religion, I do personally find it offensive. In a way, it's like suggesting that her prayers might have a positive effect on the patient's recovery, something I will not deny is possible but which falls short from being a factual elemnt of medicine. Which, after all, is what she was hired for: medicine, not theology. If a priest / paster / imam / rabbi / monk had offered, that would be altogether a different story.

The way it stands I'm not sure if the trust isn't right in kicking her out: after all, she had been warned. I'd be really annoyed if a nurse asked me if she should pray for me if I didn't ask for it. And that's coming from a theologian.

@Con: I hear you about Ireland. Met some pretty strange clergy there (lived there on and off over the last couple of years). It's pretty much the same everywhere, though, reason why I split with the Catholic church at a very young age. Although I did consider becoming a Franciscan friar (but they're different).
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Wow, this is a first, the first two atheists don't have a problem with this (I think) rather obvious infraction, but the two following christians who answer thereafter do. What happened? Is this backwards land, where cats chase dogs and cheese become better smelling with age?

Although, for the record I think saying a prayer to yourself for a person is even that rather offensive to said person. While you aren't forcing your religion onto said person in an obvious way you're still including them in your religion by proxy by praying for them. Just as bad in my book. Fine if you believe in the power of prayer, but pray for those that want praying, or at least those who needs praying that you know are within your own religious realm and leave the rest alone.

In my book, she got what she deserved.
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I'm more agnostic than athiest. I would probably say something along the lines of: "sure, pray for me if YOU think it will do some good".
I don't think it was a moment of "religious superiority" and more of a actual concern... so I'd be ok with that.

Its when religious people get get all "up in your business" determining what is right/wrong for OTHER people and thinking for some bizzare reason that religion gives them better morals... thats when I start to have a problem. If the woman was caught with a bong, and the nurse offered to pray for her. Then, the woman should be pretty pissed.
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Offering to "pray" for someone's terminal illness is insulting and belittling.

How about I pop round the corner and murder a virgin in the hopes it makes you feel better.

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Substitute "Voodoo Doll" for "prayer" and you see the problem.

Shes just another self deluded nut job - doesn't really matter what flavour she is.
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I agree with Non, I think how most people would react depends entirely on the personality and manner of the person offering to pray. I'm a committed Christian and I would find no offense in an offer of prayer made in genuine care and concern from a person of any religion; Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim...
I whole heartedly believe that individuals should not force their beliefs on anyone, but that in friendship and care personal beliefs may be shared, whereupon each individuals my take what they have heard and decide for themselves what they think of it.
As I think that this nurse has made her offer in that spirit, I see no problem with her actions.
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I have a problem with those religious folks who wear it on their sleeves. It's kind of an insecurity move, I think...a way to project their beliefs and faith into the air around them, and therefore attempt to make it more real. Instant validation, at the expense of others, is wrong.

Or at least at the expense of me. :?
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Even if it was a Satanist? Even if the person included things in the prayer that goes against your own moral principles?

You see no problem with her actions, but do you recognize that her being fired was correct? I mean, if the employer has said previously that this shit doesn't fly and she continues doing it it's really her own fault.
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Actually, studies have shown that patients who know they're being prayed for have worse health outcomes than people who are not prayed for. When you say "Do you want me to pray for you?", the implied subtext is "because you're probably going to die and prayer is your only hope". That puts people under stress.

As an atheist, I probably wouldn't be offended on multicultural grounds if someone offered to pray for me, but I'd probably be concerned that a nurse is wasting effort on this pointless activity instead of doing something that might actually help.
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Well, it should be a big deal, because she offered and the woman said no, and she said OK.

Its like she sat down and started chanting right there.

It would be like being upset if someone said "Do you want me to hang up these windchimes?" or "Do you want me to make a toast to you later tonight?" Either way, its an offer, not a threat, and she said "ok" after asked not to.
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No, it's not like being asked if I want windchimes up. It's like being asked if I want my medical provider to start talking to a make-believe man in the sky. And, no, I don't want that. I want excellent medical care from a sane rational human being. If I were the patient, I would have called and asked she not be sent back either.
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This nurse made the assumption that her patient was like her. I think it is an important lesson to her. I'm making a generalization here but I find that people who are religious tend to think that everyone else is. Then when they are confronted with someone who is actually annoyed or offended by their religious assumptions they are dumbfounded. I think the trust is taking the right action. Religion and prayer should be left out of the work place. If you can't solicit politics or charities then you shouldn't be able to solicit for religions. Lastly there is always a chance that you can make a sick person (who may just happen to be an atheist) even more uncomfortable then they already are. Why take that chance? Keep your personal beliefs to yourself!
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This is clearly a case of no matter how many polite warnings she gets, her religion is more important to her than her job.

That's fine, it's her choice, but if she decides to make her religious beliefs a higher priority than her job requirements, she can't really complain if her job suffers as a result. She made the choice herself.
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I am an atheist, and IF the story is really as reported, (I'm a skeptic too), I think it was nice that the nurse made the offer. Sounds like she was just trying to be nice. Nothing wrong with that.

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what a terrible nurse

if i am entrusting my health and well being to somebody, i sure as heck don't want to see them chanting magical incantations
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Another Atheist here. I agree that if she has previously been warned by her employer not to pray or ask to pray for patients, then the firing is correct. As an Atheist, I find it presumptuous that one would assume I'm religious or even of there faith. As someone above stated, insert a different faith into the mix, i.e. ask to pray to Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and see what the response is. Granted, that I can tell from the article, she didn't state any particular faith, but that is moot to the point that she assumed religiosity of the patient.
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I am amazed by edselpdx's finding offense at it. I guess I would be mildly amused if a Zoroastrian or Buddhist offered to pray for me. I would also take it kindly and politely. Obviously some people are more obsessed with finding offense. It's too bad that ill woman didn't have something more constructive to do with her time than complain about the nurses. If that's all she's complaining about, she's getting pretty good care.

However, if the nurse was told not to, but did anyway, then her employers are well within their rights to terminate her employment. A doctor or nurse (of any religion or non-religion) must separate personal life from professional life, and she has demonstrated that she won't.
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My mother is a hospice nurse, and she prays with her patients and their families frequently. I'm an atheist, but I think if it helps dying people and their loved ones come to terms with the reality of the situation, it's great. Someone losing their job (or even being warned) over it is pure political bullshit (if you're close to any nurses, you know the administrations are highly political).
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She asked first. She didn't press upon being told no. This is the typical knee jerk reaction now days on the web to anything spiritual. Why are we surprised it should show up in real life. It does sound extreme there though doesn't it. I was told in school that the spiritual concerns of our patients are to be considered a part of their care. How to know what those are unless you ask?

This is complete nonsense. Makes me wish I had went into Law school instead.
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Asking to pray is not assuming anything. Reason dictates asking in a culture where the majority claim a belief in a higher power.

Being allowed to pray makes no statement as to the recipient's beliefs. It is a tolerant form of indulgence regardless of Faith or not. It is no worse than saying "I hope you get to feeling better." Should I have to ask permission to say that, should I be fired?
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"How to know what those are unless you ask?"

Easy. You wait for the person to approach you about it instead of asking. It should really not be upto the caregiver to offer "magic" healing power, it should be upto the patient to ask for it first. If a nurse asked me in a hospital or at home if I was a caretaker he/she would be out of there faster than a polished snotball a, the boss would hear about it not for my sake but for the sake of future patients.
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Sorry, this has nothing to do with the post. Just wanted to let you know that I find myself wading through endless posts coming in through queuebot before I settle down to a post from one of the more familiar names. I dislike queuebot - it's not personal anymore, does not have a clear editorial mandate (whatever that is) and most of all - not neat. Could I have my old neatorama back please?
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Con : I’m Christian but I understand that as a physician I leave my religion at the door.

Then you're not a very good Christian.

ff : Offering to “pray” for someone’s terminal illness is insulting and belittling.
How about I pop round the corner and murder a virgin in the hopes it makes you feel better.

Yeah, those are exactly the same thing.

If you're insulted or bothered by someone wanting to pray with you I feel nothing but pity for you. What's the harm? Is it fear? To not believe is one thing but to have such animosity is beyond my understanding.
The woman said no and that ended it. To want her fired is frightening.
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D Bozko - Yes we're all scared that someone talking to themselves will hurt us. Accept that some people don't believe in magical trolls, fairies, zombies or gods and we don't want it forced upon us even peripherally by religious sheep - I some religious people are offended by that; that's how non-religious people feel when we get religious claptrap spouted at us.

The only thing that scares me is that people actually believe in this nonsense.
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Wow. All of you people that are being unreasonable about this must have been hugged too much, or not hugged enough.

She asked, the woman said no, so she didn't do it. No need to liken people that believe in a higher power as "nuts" or "crazy". THAT is offensive. How about you try being respectful? Or didn't your single mother teach you that?
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Wow, interesting comments. I'm a life-long atheist and my first reaction was that the nurse didn't mean any harm and her offer should just be taken in the spirit of general well wishes. But Con and some of the other posters really got me thinking. Based on what was in the article the nurse did make assumptions about the religiosity of her patient, but for all we know there was a cross hanging in the room. There may be relevant details not in that article.

However, *if* that's really all the nurse said then I personally wouldn't be offended. Maybe a bit annoyed depending on the context, but not really offended. I do understand how someone could be though. What if the patient was Buddhist or Muslim and that started a request that the nurse not pray to a Christian god, which offended the nurse and effected the patient's care? The nurse is there as a (scientific) medical practitioner, not a nun. She should have prayed silently for her patient in her off-time and not even brought it up unless the patient did first. That is the most neutral and professional course of action, and the one she had been repeatedly advised to follow by her superiors.

As for the prayer card, that seems more like religious solicitation and, IMO, indisputably crosses the line. It also shows the nurse's repeated attempts to bring her religion into the workplace, which - as Con pointed out - makes me wonder if the standard of care would drop for those who react negatively to her offers of faith.

She should get a formal suspension with the understanding that if it happens again she's fired without question. If she had just followed her employer's rules to not broach the subject of religion unless the patient did then all would have been fine.
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@D Bozko

No need to slam Con and be intolerant towards other Christians just because they don't share the same principles as you.

@Amy A.

Asking people to be respectfull on the internet is like attempting to turn a bottle of tomato sauce into a goat. It's pointless, it won't happen, and sure it may be cool but it's just an unrealistic expectation.

I'm actualy surprised it took this long for a flamewar to start on this issue. Given the facts she was told to stop and went against her boss due to her holding her beleifs above her job, had she not been fired this most likley will happen again, and even though the person reciving the care was not offended, it could have a worse consequence the next time. I am sure she won't have a problem finding new work, there are plenty of faith based businesses out there that will see this and offer to hire her.
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It's not the praying that bothers me, though anyone who offers to do it for me can waste their time all they like. No, what bothered me was her saying that since becoming a nurse she'd seen all sorts of miracles and then gave an example of someone with a bladder infection getting better.

Me, I'd have put it down to being cared for by the medical profession and having a course of appropriate antibiotics, not prayer.

Huh, what do I know, I'm not religious, a nurse or a patient.
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Congrats to people like Dan Smith and Katie. Belittle peoples beliefs on the internet because you wouldn't have the guts to ever creep out of Starbucks and say anything to someone's face. Kudos.
Complaining that someone offered to do something nice for you brings us one step closer to making this world as miserable and unlivable as your own existences. At least you'll have more to write about in your Livejournal "I was molested as a child" community.
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Anyone who believes that this is serious enough and worth being fired over; I hope dies in a fire because no one came to help them.

It is stupid that this is even a story.
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The act of praying has nothing to do with being nice to another person. It is a selfish act to beleive they are doing something for someone, asking for help from something that is not there, hoping that cooincidence will be in their favor so they can abolish any insecurities they have. As a nurse being nice is about listening to thier paitents, getting and fluffing pillows and providing help when they need assitance for things they find difficult.

If you offer to pray for someone who does not feel it does anything for them, you are doing nothing for them. I can't see praying as anything more then that, I mean, if this so called god has a divine plan and everything happens for a reason, does praying actualy sway the course of what will and what won't happen? What if people pray for 2 different things where there is a conflict of interest, do both prayers phase each other out? Do you know Todd?
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The responses here surprise me. Folks, if I ever find myself in your care, please ask your employer to kindly send the woman who is the subject of the article. Those who think nursing is nothing more than fluffing pillows and such, find another job if you need to but please don't be my nurse. If I were to be in the position of patient here, and a Jewish or Muslim or Hindu person offered to consider me in their thoughts, I would accept it. Heck, even Scientologists, I will take what I can get. I am disappointed that the patient here turned the nurse in for her offer of kindness. Whether you believe or not, it is not a selfish act to simply offer to pray.
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@Con: bravo

@Cori: I'd rather political bullsh!t rather than the religious kind

@timcat: spiritual considerations should be made, but I doubt you were ever taught to offer to say Mass for a patient? Thought not.

@D Bozko: way to go bashing Con for being professional

@Amy A: I love how you preach respect and then make a dig at single parents. Classy.

@Marcus: if you were ever in my care and asked for a prayer, I'd gladly call someone who was comfortable doing it with you. However, I'd never presume to project my beliefs on you. Deal?


I think a lot of you are missing the point. If you have a problem with the policies of her employers, then address that. She KNEW the rules and broke them. At least twice. I'm a doctor and an atheist and I can't turn up for work dressed as Captain Kirk, even if I think it's appropriate, because I know it's against the rules.

I reckon most people would be indifferent to her offer or would think it was nice, most would not be upset. But that isn't the point - some people would be uncomfortable. One man's meat is another man's poison. How would you Christians feel if I was about to operate on you and just before you went under anaesthetic I whispered "By the way, would you like me to offer a little incantation to Satan on your behalf? I believe that he'll help you through this" I'm sure most of you would (quite understandably) find it upsetting. We all have different opinions of religion, some of them negative, which is why it should be kept private in a professional setting.

She HAS NOT been fired and no-one is asking for her to be fired. They're investigating the complaint, which is appropriate. All of you religious people who feel threatened by this should relax a little and wake up to the fact that atheists are not trying to ban religion - we're just asking that people don't shove it in our faces.
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The whole thing sounded harmless and unoffensive to me until I got to this part:

Mrs Petrie said: "My concern is for the person as a whole, not just their health."

This is what bothers me about some religious folks-- the implication that there is something missing from my life, that I'm morally lacking, and that I will burn in hell when I die, because I don't share their faith.

I thought at first that it was nice of her to care about her patients enough that she'd keep them in her prayers, but the problem is that very religious people often end up hitting you with a backhanded insult. I don't care what you believe in, but when you imply that I am a lesser person than you because I don't believe in the same things, that's a problem.

Anyway, as far as the exchange between nurse and patient here, it sounded harmless, but still, she should be more professional and leave her personal beliefs at home.

If I found out my doctor was very religious, I would no longer feel comfortable discussing certain things with him that might go against, say the Catholic view that premarital sex is a sin. It would certainly affect my comfort level, and therefore my level of care.
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"The woman patient, who is believed to be in her late 70s, is understood to have complained to the trust."

The patient complained to the trust.

If she had asked for a prayer and the nurse had agreed there would be no complaint. That would be patient-centered care.

The patient expected the nurse to treat a leg wound...not to provide spiritual support.

I can imagine a patient thinking that maybe the nurse knows something about their prognosis that they don't...'you need my prayers with your condition'.
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Okay, first off, If this nurse was told not to do something and then she went on to do it, then they have every right to fire her. I also believe that, especially in health care, professionals need to be careful to keep personal things separate from work. I am not arguing with any of that.

The thing that really bothers me here is the unabashed, and offensive things hurled at religious folk. Dale said "Accept that some people don’t believe in magical trolls, fairies, zombies or gods and we don’t want it forced upon us even peripherally by religious sheep". I perfectly accept the fact that some people don't believe in any of that stuff but it should be obvious that you are comparing believing in god to something like magical trolls, that is offensive! I hear of atheist and the like constantly getting offended by anything remotely religious while if something happens the other way around hardly anything is said.
If people could just be a little less sensitive and more polite and considerate to each other than these sorts of things should never show up in the news. I don't want to shove my views on anyone and I have never believed that was right. And don't give me that crap about this being the internets, so throw out your manners. What is this world coming to. I know it won't do anything to ask people to be civil, it won't happen. But if you start spewing this out, it becomes an excuse that you can say whatever you want without any responsibility whatsoever.
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@Hans_von_wolfensteinn: what you fail to realise is that for many of us the difference between God and a Magical Troll is simply the number of people who believe in him/her/it.

That's not offensive; it's logical and reasoned. If it diminishes God, that's just your interpretation. Atheists have to treat all imaginary beings the same, or else we'd be hypocrites.

Saying something like "all Christians are evil" or "atheists are perverts" would be offensive. Get some perspective. Remember that virtually every major religion oppresses some group - blacks, gays, women, atheists - either actively or passively. In the grand scheme of things, religious groups have done far more harm than any concerted atheistic effort ever has.
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A decade ago, I'd have reacted passively and tolerantly toward a medical provider who offered to pray for me. I'd have said something like "I don't believe in your God, but sure, you can pray for me, thank you."

I would also, however, have thought it inappropriate, for various reasons that other people have already elucidated... but I'd have considered it pretty trivial and let it go without complaint.

After eight years of the Bush administration, eight years of pushy, bullying Christians doing everything possible to insert their irrational and nonsensical beliefs into my government's workings, into State and Federal law, into our courtrooms, our classrooms, and our bedrooms, I have become entirely intolerant of Christianity. If this was a different kind of world, I would be burning down churches on a daily basis at this point. I will not tolerate even a hint of this inane, insane, irrational, infantile, ignorant, idiotic belief system in any place where it does not explicitly belong, and I urge other sane, rational folk to be similarly on guard.

The intolerance of Christians has destroyed my tolerance for Christianity. The great majority of these deluded fools are dangerously violent, war-mongering, tyrannical, un-American, Constitution-hating, bullying jerks who are looking forward to the end of the world. There should be no place for their nutjob eschatonic fantasies in healthcare just as there should be no place for it in government, education, the judicial system, etc.
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I've read a few comments on here saying that the nurse was just trying to be nice and helpful, that people are overacting to a kind gesture. My response is that you can be a wonderful and kind caregiver without having to offer prayer or any other kind of religious absolution to your patient. It is possible to care about people without bringing religion into it. A patient should not have to feel obligated to react to their caregivers beliefs. It is just bad practice to assume that someone has the same beliefs as you in a work situation where you have to care for a diverse group of individuals. I'm an administrative assistant. If someone came into my office and told me they had a bad day and I said, "Would you like me to pray for you?" I would be reprimanded by my supervisor. It is an inappropriate response in a working situation. Like I said above, just like politics and charities are off limits in most workplaces, so should religion be off limits. The world is a changing place, the U.S. is especially mixed with a number of different cultures and ideas floating around. I don't think it is wrong to ask people to change to accommodate these new cultures and ideas. I have to withhold my personal ideas in the workplace. When someone comes into my office and talks about finding god as a wonderful experience (which has happened) I don't just get to say, "Actually, I think your beliefs are a culturally accepted psychosis." Because I know they would complain to my supervisor about it. I just do the professional thing and nod my head and make noncommittal noises. It doesn't matter what her intentions were her behavior was still ultimately unprofessional.
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Wow; so many thin-skinned people here. What harm or foul is brought by asking if she can pray for her patient?

And asking to pray for a patient is a far cry from pushing her religion on her patient.
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Dave, you either haven't read the previous posts or didn't understand them or chose to ignore the arguments put forth.

I see from your blog that you're Christian. How, then, can you not see that offering prayer is the same as announcing that you have religious views? You have the right to believe whatever you want but no-one has the right (particularly in a professional setting where the rules are clear and you've been complained about before) to bring religion up where it's not appropriate and may not be wanted. No-one cares that she is Baptist, they care that she has repeatedly engaged in religious activities - or offered such - and that could be offensive to patients. Remember, it's not about her views on the matter, it's about her patients.

If you can't see the potential "harm or foul" in her actions then you are intolerant and insular in your thinking. Atheists may not be in the majority, but we have rights too.
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transpersonal communication,seeking help and guidance to god,a way to be used by a nurse when caring for someone..but it doesnt mean that u have to impose this to the patient...but in her case, i think theres nothing wrong with it..she just offered a prayer...if the patient doesnt want it,then its fine...
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