Even though medical healing is mainly based upon scientific beliefs, one cannot discount the effect of religious beliefs in the healing of a patient. For many people with a strong religious conviction, the simple belief in the power of prayer is enough to create signs of healing even in the most critical of patients.
Even though the effects of prayer are undocumented, there is a growing belief among many that faith plays a significant role in healing a patient when science has given him up for dead.
In the medical field, nurses are slowly realizing that a diversity of faith among their patients has them in a bind. Not all nurses are religious, nor do they share the same religious traditions as the patient. In such instances, it is up to the nurse to find a middle ground where they can honor the religious beliefs of individual patients without losing sight of their own religion.
Nursing is a highly technical occupation.
This is why even though nurses realize that each patient has a spiritual need, the nurse may not always be trained to respond to it. So this job is usually relegated to the hospital’s pastoral care workers even though nurses would be better placed to deliver such patient needs. It is not for a nurse to question the religious beliefs of her patients, but it is her job to insure that these beliefs are fully utilized in the process of helping a patient to heal both physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Unfortunately, the nursing shortage in the country does not leave the nurses with much to connect on a personal basis with their patients. Patient care and comfort are forgone in lieu of time management and getting the job done. Though nurses have traditionally been viewed as both medical and spiritual healers because of the personal connection they have with their wards, the lack of time and instruction as to how to combine patient care and religion are sending our nurses off the original objectives of why they became nurses.
Roberta Bube, RN, PHN currently works part time as nurse at the Marion Medical Center in Santa Maria, Calif. According to her interview in Nurseweek for the article “You Gotta Have Fait”, she realized that “You have to address mind, body and spirit, I always found time to do it [in a hospital]. I did have to be cautious. I’d have to do it quietly. Everybody’s beliefs are different.” So, how can a nurse integrate the religious aspect and its various differences in their daily dealings with their individual patients?
Firstly, a nurse can typically start by incorporating the patient’s religious belief into her basic daily care routine for the patient. At the Saint Francis Medical Center in Santa Barbara, California, clinical coordinator Jan Ingram, RN, explains in the same article that “Whether you’re giving them a sponge bath or putting them on the commode, if you’re really there with them-mindfully present-that is a spiritual action.” Nurses have to realize that listening and communicating with their patient is of vital importance in helping a patient heal. This includes developing ways and means for the patient to be able to effectively practice their beliefs and be able to assist in the patient’s personal spiritual care. Once a nurse learns to approach a person holistically, the nurse will now be in a very good position to accept the various faiths of their patients and convert the same or varied belief amongst the patients she is in charge of.
Secondly, the nurse must be willing to set aside her own personal spiritual beliefs and instead be open minded and willing to accept the faith of the patient while she is caring for him or her. A patient may request for a bible reading, a short prayer, or simply letting the patient talk with the nurse listening and prepared to reassure her at the end that God has not abandoned him or her. If need be, a nurse must not hesitate to accommodate a patients request to join him in a religious activity. Such activities tend to reassure a patient and keep him calm throughout the healing process.
Lastly, it is highly imperative that nurses know and understand the religious beliefs of their patients as these beliefs can affect their medical decisions pertaining to procedures such as operations or end of life decisions. So, a nurse is encouraged to discuss and explore their patients religious beliefs if a patient is comfortable doing so with the nurse. This will allow a nurse to develop and gain the trust of the patient because the patient will be comfortable in the knowledge that the nurse in charge of her care understands her religious belief and will always respect its role in their lives. Such support systems between patient and nurse usually prove vital in the therapeutic alliance of the two parties.
It is also highly important that a nurse, even though not a devout practitioner of her religion, believes in God and knows how to pray. Even though a nurse is taught how to compartmentalize her feelings and not be affected by the events of the day at the hospital, one cannot help but be affected.
There will be times in the course of performing her duty that she will call science into question and why it failed certain patients, or why it cannot seem to heal a patient who has no reason to be ill. During those situations, when science seems to fail her, the only thing she will find herself clinging to is her belief in god or her religion. It is this faith that she will take with her as she tries to heal her patient and help him cope with his medical situation. This will be the common denominator binding them. Faith in religion regardless of what the religion is commonly called.
At the end of the day, nurses will have to learn to accept and integrate the diversified cultures and religious beliefs of their patients. The nurse will have to turn to her own personal faith for support as well. All of this because healing a patient is not all a matter of science. It is also a matter of spiritual belief in a Supreme Being who can heal us all of our aches and pains in any form or guise.
Hebert Randy S. ; Jenckes., Mollie W. ; Ford, Daniel E.; O’Connor, Debra R. $ Cooper, Lisa A. (2001). Patient Perspectives on Spirituality and the Patient-Physician Relationship. Journal of Internal General Medicine. Retrieved May 25, 2007 from http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1495274
Hemilla, Donna. (2002). You Gotta Have Faith. Nurseweek. Retrieved May 20, 2007 from http://www.nurseweek.com/news/features/02-09/faith.asp
Mitchell, Joyce & Haroun, Lee. (2005). Healthcare. Singapore. Thomson Delmar.
Wensley, Michelle. Spirituality in Nursing. Retrieved May 21, 2007 from http://www.ciap.health.nsw.gov.au/hospolic/stvincents/1995/a04.html