Nursing Times blogger Stuart Young on the Pope’s visit and the role of religion in nursing care.
Living in Birmingham the visit of Pope Benedict XVI caused a small amount of traffic relocation; yes I was on of those people last Sunday morning that forgot all about the visit of the Pontiff even though I had been watching news coverage before I left the house. Yes I know I really should have been thinking ahead.
The following day a group of friends and I were talking in the student union lounge and the conversation moved on to subject of the papal visit, and the debate of whether he was worth a state visit, whether the visit meant anything to people who had no faith at all, or people who were from the protestant church’s. As the conversation developed I found myself listening to the words of others and realising that none of us were thinking as nurses.
How often do we admit a patient into the care of nursing staff and go through the standard admission questionnaire, asking information that ticks a set of boxes around the activities of daily living including faith and that is as far as we go? Is looking after the spiritual needs of our patient just to ask if they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, or other?
Over my last two years of training I have been in the situation of admitting patients and have often asked the question about religious beliefs and then only ever thought about this aspect of my patient should they take a turn for the worse and needed spiritual comfort.
Spiritual comfort is a large factor in many people’s lives, look at the number of pilgrims in Cofton Park (Birmingham), Hyde Park (London) and Bellahouston Park (Glasgow) to see the Pope. I understand that nursing at a patient holistically is what we are taught in university, but more often than not when we go out onto clinical practice we get caught up in the other areas of care, wound care, medication management, fluid balances, observations and documentation.
We know patients need more than just clinical interventions; they need a holistic support to improve their health. This is why nursing numbers are so important, we often debate if we as a profession are an art or a science or a delicate balance of the two. To keep this balance we need enough time to complete our clinical duties (science) and look after the holistic needs (art) of our patients.
I saw a banner being held up on the televised parts of the pope’s visit, changing WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) a campaign that has been running for many years to WWPD (What Would Pope Do). After reflecting over how I as a student nurse practice, and heading into my final couple of placements I think WWPD should stand for What Would Patient Do in their spiritual lives outside the care setting, and from now on I will always think WWPD and try and ensure that their needs are addressed through out there delivery of care.
About the author
Stuart Young is a third year student nurse and RCN student member of council