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'Are nursing rituals and superstitions helpful?'

  • Comments (18)

There are many rituals and superstitions that don’t have scienfitic basis but take place quite a lot in nursing.

It is arguable that no greater issue is as emotive or associated with ritual as death. Countless cultures have different practices surrounding death and grief.

Hospitals are no different, through my experience there seems to be a collection of institutionalised rituals.

Some examples include when nurses open the windows in a room of a patient who has recently died. There may be some evidence-based reason for this but when I enquired, it was to ‘let the spirit go free’.

I have been present on many occasions where nurses and other staff talk to a patient who has died as if they are still living.

Nurses often phone up to have patients who have died and ask for them to be transported to “Rose Cottage” instead of the mortuary.

I am making no judgment on the value of the practices or the myriad of others I could have highlighted, I know that the NMC states that we should still care for patients in a respectful manner after their death, but I am genuinely interested to hear your stories.

What rituals have you seen during placement?

Do you think rituals like these are helpful for the nursing staff and for relatives?

Can you think of any circumstances when they haven’t been useful?

 

  • Comments (18)

Readers' comments (18)

  • Talking to the body is basically RESPECT, and often enough a nurse becomes fond of a user, client. Many years ago I witnessed porters taking away "remains" in that awful metal box with wheels. I saw them push that box around, and pushing it to each other just like a child's game, and they were enjoying this !!..so really it is nice to know that there are people who still respect that body that a soul has occupied during their life here on this world. I am thankful that this was not my mother. With regard to "opening a window"..I was on night shift once, and a client had passed away, the remains being in the bedroom until morning. A HCA was sitting outside, and we heard knocking on the bedroom door. The HCA stood up , and said OK.. .......I will leave the door open..so there..LOL...call me superstitious ???

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  • I was working in the private sector night shift. A client passed away. A HCA of catholic origin left a rosary beads and bible beside the bed. The clients son upon being informed came, and stated "what's that doing there"..perhaps his father was not religious..but this just goes to show, it is important to maintain awareness of our clients religious beliefs.

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  • Anonymous

    Timothy Lonergan | 21-May-2012 4:34 pm

    such insensitive gestures however well meant can unwittingly cause considerable offence which can have serious consequences such as being hauled up before the NMC!

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  • Talking of windows, is common sense being allowed to fly in or to fly out of them? What can be wrong c. opening a window after a pt. has just died?

    Maybe the soul IS being allowed to escape? I don't know - and no-one else knows - although I believe - as a Christian - that it's possible.

    As for talking to a dead pt.: as Mr. Lonergan says, it's showing respect and is part of continuity of care at the extreme end-stage.

    The behaviour of the porters that he relates is utterly disgusting.

    As for the Catholic HCA leaving rosary beads and a bible: this is entirely different from proselytising the living (which I heartily disapprove of) but, albeit being a Protestant, I would defend to the death what I consider to be her/his appropriate action here. (S)he expressed her religious approach to the pt's demise and was entirely right to do so.

    If the son took offence, he should remember that other people's feelings need to be taken into consideration and that the HCA did what (s)he believed to be the right thing to do. No-one should have a monopoly on feelings - whatever the politically correct brigade would like to impose on us!!

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  • Anonymous

    "If the son took offence, he should remember that other people's feelings need to be taken into consideration and that the HCA did what (s)he believed to be the right thing to do. No-one should have a monopoly on feelings - whatever the politically correct brigade would like to impose on us!!"

    the patient and the newly bereaved relatives and their beliefs and values are the first consideration in this and central to care and as professional carers we have to be very sensitive to their needs.

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  • Anonymous

    Not an answer to your question, Adam, but I have a comment - it seems to me, that you are starting to ask some very interesting questions. Keep it up.

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  • Interesting...The HCA did act in good faith as such..but we must remember some relatives could take offence and COMPLAIN !! which means..having to write a statement...unions .....etc. Perhaps he could have been a Hindu for all we know.

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  • Anonymous

    Timothy Lonergan | 22-May-2012 12:04 pm

    it just shows the necessity of adequate training so that neither party has any difficulties with the situations they have to face in nursing care such as this.

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  • I can recall; a very religious nurse leaving Christian relics (medals) under every clients pillow. Ok her motive was in the clients best interest as such, but this is based on a subjective value, she did not anticipate the response of relatives (the clients were elderly confused) I don not know if there was any follow up on this as such.

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  • Anonymous

    I will always open the window next to a patient (or relative) who has died. Yes, it is commonly believed that it is to let the soul leave but it also allows for a cooler room for distressed people to come into.

    I have been nursing for 20 years now and I do not believe in the good old days. Neither do I believe that the way nursing has developed is right. We need a middle ground which brings out the best in nursing.

    Maybe some nursing rituals and superstitions help to give nurses worldwide something in common. We need something to unite nurses because I have never known the profession to be so divided.

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