Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reflecting on the end of the Semester

I have one more day left to spend in the hospital, but I am essentially done with classroom learning in the main nursing skills class so I figured I could write about it. I've been putting off writing about the "spirituality" and "alternative treatments" chapters, which is strange because this blog is titled Atheist Nurse. I dislike confrontation with most people (except for my mom - Hi, Mom!) so I didn't really want to write about this until now. It's not like I have anything profound or interesting to say about it; mainly I'd just like to get some crap off my back about the ignorance and magical thinking some people (and college book writers) possess.

I'll start with the Spirituality chapter. I don't have any particular problem with learning about different types of spirituality in nursing school; I look at spirituality as something I don't have, but for a majority of people there is a physiological basis for their belief in god/gods. Some peoples' brains are incapable of not believing in god/gods. Therefore, if they are in spiritual distress or are depressed because they think their god dislikes them, I need to treat them with the same care and compassion that I would treat someone with a broken leg. This is especially important because the psychological health of a person is directly correlated (in most cases) to how well their bodies can heal physical wounds they may have.

So, disclaimer aside, I hate this book. It says that the definition of an atheist is "a person who denies the existence of a God." Um... what? Atheists do not deny the existence of a god with a capital G. All the atheists I know have concluded that there is no evidence to support the existence of any god or gods - not just the Judeo-Christian god they seem to favor. They even have this as a question at the end of the chapter to make sure the people understand what an atheist by the book's definition is. I have a test tomorrow over some of this material, and I'm unsure of what I'll do if the teacher (who happens to be the wife of a minister and a youth minister herself) has a similarly misleading question on the exam. In class, when teaching this material, the teacher insisted "Everyone needs spiritual care - even the atheist - because we all have a spirit, and they all need care!" ...Right. And there is also only one atheist in her world, evidently.

The chapter also has several ready-made prayers available for the student nurse to use in his/her practice. One general prayer in case we aren't used to praying, and one specially created nurses' prayer. I find this all wildly inappropriate, mainly because the only acknowledgment of the non-religious people is the single-lined definition of an atheist and agnostic with the admonishment that "They deserve respect for what they choose to believe." Beyond that, it's 25 pages of how to care for religious folks and how to become friendly with your own spirituality. Oh, and also some Critical Thinking story about how if a kid is diabetic and his parents won't take him to the doctor because they're Christian Scientists, you should put off calling CPS until you consult with the family, the family's church and your nursing organization. This is because the nurse in the story believes in the "power of prayer." Hmm.

I wanted to go on about the Complimentary and Alternative Medicine chapter, but I'll just mention some of the things they "teach" us about. Like the value of chiropractic "medicine," homeopathy, fixing your Qi, Therapeutic Touch (a horrifyingly ridiculous nursing practice that the book touts as scientifically valid), the scientifically proven positive affects of intercessory prayer (I'd love to see the studies they're referring to - because all the ones I've read show that is has negative affects), and how to feel your own energy by holding your arms out and then pulling them slowly in to feel when something "pushes back." Wow! Sounds like valuable educational material.

Like I said, I hate this book.


parenting noobs said...

My Granny had a stroke the night before our wedding. The doctor was really rude and in her face about her religious beliefs (Christian Scientist). She refused treatment and wanted to leave to go to a CS center. The doctor told her that she'd "die".
I understand both sides. Respect people's wishes with their own bodies... and understand that the doctor is well educated in the matter and can help.

To each their own.

By the way, my Granny is still alive (4 years later).

Amber said...

Good luck with nursing school. I am also an atheist and a new RN. I graduated in May. I have not "come out" at work about my religious status. I'm not sure that it will come up because it seems to be automatically assumed that you are a Christian. I'm not sure if I will ever just come out and say it but I will not lie if I am asked. When I have had patients ask me to pray with them I usually just hold their hand and remain silent. It's probably the most appropriate thing for me to do in that situation

third time around said...

So glad to have found this blog. I wasn't sure there were other atheists out there in the nursing profession. Everyone's comments are so helpful. We just had the same discussions in nursing school about prayer and spirituality, but no mention about atheists. The teacher did define spirituality in broad terms though (nature, pets, prayer) or something like that. I have to admit that I tuned most of it out.