Friday, October 06, 2006

Above Us Only Skies...

There is nothing more precarious than having to deal with good old religion when caring for a terminally ill patient. Not only you have to make sure that you are adept with whatever quirks and oddities these religious nuts have, but as a Nurse you have to ensure that you remain sensitive to their cultural needs as well. It is very, very frustrating, but it’s part of the job. Since I have worked in a few other countries prior to coming over here in England, I know what some of them are like. Although most are quite sensible, they have needs that often breach “unit policies”. Some cultures are very, very closely knit as families which I guess is a good thing, but they will overcrowd the bedspace no matter how you tell them that you can only have two relatives at a time. Okay, sometimes you can understand the grief that these families are bearing and you can be a bit flexible, but oftentimes you just find their behaviour quite challenging:

“Hey! Did you buzz before before you bust your ass in here..?”

There is actually a doorbell outside that has a huge sign in English that says: Ring the bell and wait for the Nurse to take you inside.” It is quite understandable if you are dealing with older people who perhaps couldn’t see properly or may have language issues, but not with obstreperous girls and boys who just don’t care about anything whether they know how to read or write.

“And hey! No flowers, please. They got little bugs in them that we don’t need more than what we already have in here.”

Moslems may request a special food that may have been ritualistically slaughtered in whatever manner their religion called for, and may ask for it to be placed in a location that does not necessarily conform to unit policy on infection control, but cultural sensibility is tops- so you can perhaps, let them get away with it. Make sure there is no newspaper lying round the bed with cartoons of Mohammed in it. They also get ‘arsey’ when they find little specks of blood on the bed, but this time they can keep their anal behaviour with them and shut it because you can’t be bothered to change the bed sheet every time you take blood gases. You stick to your priority: Save the patient by keeping him breathing and the planet by conserving energy and reducing laundry detergent use.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses will get barmy if you give them blood even if they will die bleeding. Imagine this: A man is dying of bleeding from a perforated duodenal ulcer, but the family is refusing a much needed blood transfusion. Jehovah's Witnesses believe blood is sacred, representing life, and the Bible tells them to abstain from blood. Some artificial blood products may be permissible but never natural human blood or its byproducts. I know this is quite painful to watch, but to be a culturally competent care provider means recognizing that patients have a right to make this choice. So you’re faced with the dilemma whether to save their life or their soul. Okay then, save their soul.

It’s the added pressure of having to deal with self-righteous, over zealous and raving evangelists that makes saving lives much, much more difficult that it is quite a refreshing break to find a simple good natured atheist on a deathbed. He was admitted following a bowel operation and was extubated the next day. Because of his cancer that has already spread to his lungs and kidneys, the Doctors decided not to re-intubate him in case he deteriorates. He was told of the poor prognosis and he was pretty much happy with the plan for his care and even refused to be resuscitated. “I’m not scared to die”, he said. I noticed that he had loads of books with Jedi Knights on them and a copy of HG Wells: War of the Worlds, so I asked him:

“Do you believe in aliens?”

He said, “Not really”, then added, “Same as I don’t believe in an all powerful being who demands to be loved and adored by his people unconditionally, then punishes them according to his whims and fancy.” He asked me if I go to church, and I told him sometimes, because I’m Roman Catholic.

Then he said: “Pardon my irreverence, but do you believe in God?”

I told him, “If you mean God that punishes according to his whims and fancy, then maybe I’m an atheist, but non-belief doesn’t stop me from being a good Catholic.” So he laughed hysterically, and told me it’s the funniest thing he ever heard.

The patient died the next day and I was told his family was very angry that a Nurse asked for a Catholic priest to do last rites for him. I learnt that this Nurse thought he was doing good service by providing spiritual care even if he didn’t know what the patient’s religion is, which I thought is very insensitive. There should be a commandment that says:

Thou shalt keep thy religion to thyself!

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Anonymous A USA JW said...

This was an interesting read to see a bit of your side or view; I guess you see it all in your profession and have to be prepared one way or the other!

For further info on the topic of bloodless surgery perhaps check out They are in the States and cater to those who desire this select procedure - they will even go out of their way to fly persons in from other parts of the world where possible! And no, it is not a "Jehovah's Witness" hospital - check it out and see ;^)

3:05 PM  
Blogger Julie, RN said...

I find I am more and more agnostic, though I was raised christian. I have a difficult time providing spiritual care to someone who see things all black and all white, and want to cram their beliefs down my throat. I will be glad to obtain the clergyperson for you of your choosing, but I can not sit there and pray with you. I will give you your privacy while you perform whatever rituals you feel might help, but I don't want to be "witnessed" to or otherwise evangelized. My job is to get you well, not to perpetuate imaginary friends. :-)

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this post in more ways than one:

1. You used the phrase anal-behaviour oh so endearingly. That's a plus, but that ain't the charm yet.

2. It made me think. I for one would rather save the soul; I'd rather enjoy my immortal harping on angel wings despite the bladderful of bad piss. It's either that or that other place with the ugly landscaping.

3. The Jehovah's Witness bit was a real eye opener. Interesting.

More! Props and Cheers!

12:57 PM  
Blogger Name withheld to protect the guilty said...

"thought he was doing good service by providing spiritual care even if he didn’t know what the patient’s religion is"

Seems we're going from one brand of paternalism to another there!

It's funny, because here in the States, most atheists seem to have religious families, who demand that these atheists get religious a nurse that was going by the patient's wishes could very well be yelled at.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous tuesday said...

i really like your posts. you should write a book na!

5:11 PM  
Blogger howling said...

More imaginary friends!!! Yey. Thanks for the link @ a usa jw...
Will check out your blog if it's still under construction @ julie,rn.
momel- It's always a delight reading your comments.
screaming nutcase thoughts... well, you nailed the head right on the spot.
And tuesday!!! How are you? Wonder what's the weather like in Spain.. Return flights now only £19.99 at bmi. hmmm.

1:40 AM  
Blogger The Angry Medic said...

heh. yeah, I've been to a hospital where they just put up pictures and effigies of every religion they can think of in the ICU. guess they thought they could do no wrong if they used the shotgun approach. but some patients can be really anal about religion. that last line should be put up in big letters in hospitals :)

7:33 AM  
Anonymous tobey said...

hahaha, jesus christ. I'd rather live and die completely out of existence than die and live forever.:p nice name, howling. you sound like a dog. what's up dawg? (sarcasm. not even funny. ha. ha.)

just wondering, you must've been awfully BORED STIFF when you dropped by my site. from where did you get the link? from jz?

5:37 AM  
Anonymous tobey said...

what if you're named J.K. Howling? haha

5:43 AM  
Blogger howling said...

Hey, tobey... Yeah right, I'm BORED STIFF. He he. Tragically. I'm more Peter Pan than Harry Potter. Thanks for dropping by.

5:55 AM  
Anonymous tobey said...

I'm trying to read it on amazon right now.. i mean the traveller thingamajing. what's that 'god exists in the id' hullabaloo? he does not exist in the human brain bec god himself is fictitous. i mean seriously. it's the greatest conspiracy in all human history. at least for me anyway. you read latin? you quoted 'si vis pacem para bellum'..

i cant sleep all of a sudden..

this word verification thingy below, it says 'omgfat' hahahaha

7:47 AM  
Anonymous tobey said...

and look at your own bloody forkin font! and you say you can't read mine!

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.


7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello howling, nice blog you have here.. keep it up. :)

11:24 AM  
Blogger howling said...

And yet more friends... Hi, momel!!! Welcome back.
the angry medic - I sure think you guys have wittier nurses in Cambridge. Perhaps, they would have the sense of humour to put up a sign that says exactly just like the last line in your hospital.
tobey - I will leave that rhetoric: god exists in the human brain to julie,rn she said something about 'imaginary friends'... she's into psychiatry and maybe a bit of an agnostic. 'omgfat' - hmmm. That is funny.
kinhason - Thanks! I believe that's a dialect for 'seashell'.. I wonder if we're from the same region. [ ? ]

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following website summarizes over 200 similar court cases involving Jehovah's Witness Parents who refused life-saving blood transfusions for their children:


11:05 AM  

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