Nurse in patient prayer row is reinstated

Nurse in patient prayer row is reinstated

By Ecumenical News International
10 Feb 2009

A Christian nurse who was suspended for asking a patient whether she would like to be prayed for at the end of a home treatment session will return to work "as soon as she feels able to do so", a spokesperson for Britain's National Health Service has said - writes Trevor Grundy.

"NHS North Somerset have contacted Nurse Caroline Petrie with a view to her returning back to work as soon as she feels able," Richard Forshaw, head of communications for the regional division of the health service told Ecumenical News International.

Caroline Petrie, a 45-year old mother of two and a nurse from Weston-Super-Mare, west of London was suspended and then faced a disciplinary hearing for asking 79-year-old great-grandmother May Phippen, if she would like to join her in a prayer, after she had visited her for care.

The patient declined that offer and told Petrie's supervisor at the NHS that she considered the prayer offer "a strange thing for a nurse to do".

Petrie was asked to attend a NHS disciplinary hearing on 5 February. She was told that she had failed to demonstrate "a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity" by offering to say a Christian prayer with a patient.

The following day, Petrie said on news programme on Britain's Channel 4, "When I asked her [the patient] the question I saw she didn’t actually look offended. Her body language was quite relaxed."

Asked if she would do so again, Petrie replied, "Yes".

A statement posted on the health service's Web site for the North Somerset area, stated that although the NHS felt it right to investigate the concerns of people about the nurse, "we are keenly aware of the importance of an individual's spiritual belief, and we recognise that Caroline felt that she was acting in the best interests of her patients."

Saying that it is acceptable to offer spiritual support as part of care when the patient asks for it, the statement issued on 5 February noted, "But for nurses, whose principal role is giving nursing care, the initiative lies with the patient and not the nurse. Nurses like Caroline do not have to set aside their faith, but personal beliefs and practices should be secondary to the needs and beliefs of the patient and the requirements of professional practice."

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

Keywords: equalities | nurse | prayer
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