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Prayer nurse is reinstated by PCT following investigation

6 February 2009

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A community nurse from who was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient has been reinstated, following a public outcry over the incident.

Caroline Petrie, who is employed by North Somerset PCT, was suspended without pay after she had allegedly asked an elderly patient if she would like a prayer said for her after she had put dressings on the patient’s legs.

Media interest in the suspension drew many angry comments from the public over the PCT’s decision, including responses to Management in Practice (see link below).

A spokesperson from the PCT said: “NHS North Somerset have now contacted bank nurse Caroline Petrie with a view to her returning back to work “as soon as she feels able.

“We have always been keen to bring this matter to a timely resolution. It has been a distressing and difficult time for Caroline and all staff involved.”

The PCT was keen to make its position clear over the background to the incident, and earlier this week released a media statement, which included the following comments:

“The background is that two separate concerns were reported from a carer and a patient about the way a nurse offered her personal religious beliefs and that has been investigated but no disciplinary action has been taken at this time.

“The nurse was suspended while the concerns were looked into, which is in line with our HR policies. It does not mean that disciplinary action will follow; each case is looked at on an individual basis. 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.
“The code of conduct sets out the expected standards of conduct, performance and ethics for nurses and midwives. A good nurse provides a holistic, caring approach, listening and responding to people and their preferences for care. This includes demonstrating a personal and professional commitment to respecting people from different backgrounds, gender, age and beliefs and acting with integrity.

“It is not acceptable within the code to project personal beliefs unless invited to do so by patients and families. However, we are keenly aware of religious sensitivities and the importance of everyone’s individual spiritual belief – patients as well as staff.”

The North Somerset PCT spokesperson said that the PCT had not said it was wrong to pray for a patient, but the issue was instead “more complex”.

The statement continued: “For some people of faith, prayer is seen as an integral part of the healthcare and healing process. We expect as part of the person’s care plan an entry describing the patient’s preferences in relation to their spiritual needs.

“The person responsible for care co-ordination has the responsibility for agreeing with the patient how those needs are to be met and whether that is as part of the NHS interaction, such as via chaplaincy, or by support from others such as family or faith/community groups or if they are making their own arrangements.

“Regarding spiritual support by staff whose principal role is not to offer spiritual support, the initiative needs to rest with the patient and not with the caregiver. The personal views/beliefs and practices of the caregiver should be secondary to the needs of the patient and the requirements of competent professional practice.

“It is acceptable to offer spiritual support when the patient has stated that they wish to receive this as part of their care.

“For people of faith who are involved in healthcare, that does not mean they are required to set aside their faith but they are required to allow their actions to speak of their faith.”

North Somerset PCT

Related story: Community nurse suspended for prayer offer

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“The statements as reported are measured and thoughtful. It appears that counsel from someone with more experience, education, and training was sought and followed. Reason and empathy for all parties concerned has apparently prevailed. Hopefully, the statements will become the basis for policy, protocol, and most especially practice. Should that happen, everyone will benefit. My only concern is with the comment that the ‘personal views/beliefs and practices of the caregiver should be secondary to the needs of the patient’ must not be interpreted to mean that caregivers are required to set aside their own religious, moral, or ethical beliefs when it come to providing care and treatment. They must be provided with the opportunity to excuse themself provided a capable and competent replacement can be found” – Reverend John Scherberger, South Carolina, USA