Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Offering religious support could be part of providing compassionate patient care

  • Comment

It is often argued the UK has entered a post-religious age. Falling church attendances and the success of books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion suggest atheism has triumphed.

Nurses know this is not true. As one respondent to our survey on the place of religion in nursing commented: ‘Even the most unbelieving often look for God at the times of great stress’.

But it is not simply this fact that means nurses must take the religious needs of their patients very seriously.

As we reported on nursingtimes.net this week, research suggests those with strong religious faith derive significant mental health benefits from praying regularly.

The research did not cover the effect of knowing that others were praying for you - but clearly we are dealing with a potentially powerful force to achieve improved patient experience.

As many as 91% of the nurses we asked could conceive of circumstances where it would be appropriate to pray ‘with or for a patient’.

Another telling finding - relevant to the fight against inequality - is that prayer appears to be most effective for
poorly educated, older people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Given this context, it is little wonder most nurses think that North Somerset PCT overreacted by suspending a nurse who offered to pray for a patient.

Of course, nurses should never pray for a patient in their presence unless they or, where appropriate, their relatives have agreed. But what our survey appears to reveal is that many nurses believe the offer of religious support could be an important part of providing compassionate care.

For example, good nurses spot patients who need help eating, pain control or even a good chat - without having to be asked by those who are scared and vulnerable. Are religious needs a different matter?

That question speaks to the key finding from our survey - nurses believe there is insufficient guidance on the role that religion plays in good nursing.

The new Department of Health guidance will not have had time to filter through to many nurses - but even so it would not appear to deal adequately with the issues raised by the North Somerset case.

This delicate, but important topic, requires further attention.

Alastair McLellan editor, Nursing Times

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.