Caroline Petrie, a “bank” nurse has been told by the North Somerset primary care trust that she will not be receiving any more offers of work until an inquiry into her alleged offer to pray for an elderly patient of the Trust has reported back. The patient had informally complained to the Trust. The patient said, “But it could perhaps be upsetting for some other people if they have different beliefs or thought that she meant they looked in such a bad way that they needed praying for”. Ms Petrie claims “I am upset because I enjoy this job and it [prayer] is a valuable part of the care I give.”
Ms Petrie’s comment highlights the central issue. Religion is a deeply personal and private matter. To bring your religion into your workplace and even obliquely suggest that people should engage themselves with your own religious rituals shows a level of insensitivity and selfishness that is incompatible with a “caring” profession.
No-one is suggesting that Ms Petrie, in the words of the Daily Mail front page splash is being “Persecuted for praying”. She is not being told to not pray, nor to do anything that is against her conscience. Rather, she is being told that her behaviour is inappropriate. The Nursing and Midwifery Council Code states, “You must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health”, furthermore it states that “You must treat people as individuals and respect their dignity” and “You must not discriminate in any way against those in your care”.
The problem is that Ms Petrie wants to do two contradictory things. She appears to be a caring person who wants to help people as a nurse, but she also wants to act as an evangelist. She needs to choose what’s more important to her. No-one would suggest that Ms Petrie should not preach the Gospel to whosoever she can find to agree to listen on her own time or if she was employed as a religious worker by someone, but to expect her to be able to pursue her religious hobby at work is a silly as a stamp collector being aggrieved that they aren’t allowed to spend all their time at the post office while they are supposed to be at work. The fact that this is the second time she’s been carpeted over this suggests that it’s the evangelism that’s most important. Who is to say how many vulnerable people have not had the courage to stand up to her?
To wish for a secular society is not to wish religious people silent, it is to recognise that religion has its own time and place. That time and place is not at work. Ms Petrie needs to consider what’s the most important thing for her.
As an afterword, I think that it is excellent that the Code also states, “You must deliver care based on the best available evidence or best practice” and “You must ensure any advice you give is evidence based if you are suggesting healthcare products or services”. Prayer is totally ineffective as a treatment as demonstrated by numerous studies, including, for example, the total indifference that God show towards amputees.
Finally, in an attempt to measure the delusion that Ms Petrie is operating under, consider the statement attributed to her in the Guardian,
She said she had seen her supplications have real effects on patients, including a Catholic woman whose urine infection cleared up days after she said a prayer.
Really? A urine infection went away after a few days? A miracle! A miracle! Perhaps Ms Petrie was also administering antibiotics at the same time? Does she know that some infections just go away all by themselves (with a little help from the immune system) even without prayer being used?
As Mark Twain wrote on the effectiveness of prayer, “Rain always follows prayer, so long as the prayer is continued long enough”.