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Community nurse suspended for prayer offer

3 February 2009

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A community nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended from her work for offering to pray for an elderly patient.

Caroline Petrie is facing dismissal for an alleged breach of her code of conduct on equality and diversity. She was suspended without pay on 17 December 2008 and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting this week.

Mrs Petrie, who has been a community nurse since 1985 and is employed by North Somerset PCT, said she had asked an elderly patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the patient’s legs. The patient declined and Mrs Petrie says that she took the matter no further.

The situation arose at the home of the patient in North Somerset. Mrs Petrie was initially confronted the next day by a nursing sister who said the patient had been taken aback by her question about prayer.

Subsequently, Mrs Petrie received a message from North Somerset PCT telling her that disciplinary action against her would be taken. She was then suspended.

Mrs Petrie said: “The woman mentioned it to the sister who did her dressing the following day. She said that she wasn’t offended but was concerned that someone else might be. I was spoken to by my manager. She said: ‘I’ve got a letter in one hand and an incident form in the other. You won’t be able to work until we’ve investigated this incident.'”

A spokesperson for North Somerset PCT said: “Caroline Petrie is a bank nurse. We have had two separate concerns reported from a carer and a patient about her actions. She has therefore been told we will not be using her until the outcome of our investigation is known.

“The Nursing and Midwifery Council Code of Conduct makes it clear that nurses ‘must not use [their] professional status to promote causes that are not related to health’.
“However, we are keenly aware of religious sensitivities and the importance of everyone’s individual spiritual belief – patients as well as staff.

“Ultimately it is important to add we always take any concerns raised by our patients most seriously and conscientiously investigate any matter brought to our attention. We have to be respectful of our patients’ views as well as those of our staff.”

North Somerset PCT

Christian Legal Centre

Related story from 6 February 2009: Prayer nurse is reinstated by PCT following investigation

Your comments
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“We live in a Christian and not a secular state, which seems frequently to be forgotten by those too afraid to take a common sense approach. What a waste of time and money!” – Name and address withheld

“What a waste of taxpayers’ money! I cannot believe the world has come to this rubbish!” – Name and address withheld

“Yes. My father was similarly made to feel uncomfortable. Our professional code exists for a purpose. Given her previous warning she should not have been reinstated” – Eleanor Hobbs

“As a hospital chaplain, I understand the necessity to respect a person’s right to practise their faith or lack of faith/religious  tradition and not have their beliefs walked upon or even ignored. That being said, anyone or any organisation that espouses a belief that spirituality and faith is not an essential part of the fabric of life and health is sorely lacking in the full understanding of the human life experience. Faith and health go hand-in-hand. The nurse asked a reasonable question though we are not privy to the full circumstances surrounding the reason for the question. The patient declined the offer, the nurse respected the declining of the offer and let the subject drop. North Somerset PCT has made a gross error. They have run amok in their interpretation of ‘equality and diversity’. Do  they not understand that not all prayer is evangelical or proselytising? What would their stance be if the patient had asked the nurse to pray and the nurse had objected? If the patient believed that prayer, or faith, or religion has a place in her healthcare (contrary to their Code of Conduct), would they expect the nurse to refuse to meet the patient’s need for a simple prayer? Their position is something they need to review and pray about. In the meantime, I’ll pray for them” – Reverend John Scherberger, South Carolina, USA

“Bring back the nurse that cares and prays for her patients. Sack the manager for wasting taxpayers’ money” – Connie, London

“An atheist in shark-infested water prays just as hard as any christian” – E Hunter Jones, London

“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. This political correctness by the PCT managers is going too far. These days, anything to do with prayer and religion is frowned upon. HOW CRAZY AND STUPID IS THIS. THE NEXT THING WILL BE TO BAN ALL RELIGIOUS HOSPICES” – Dr Hitesh Kothari DFM & Ethics, Liverpool