There are many challenges facing the major religious traditions including: peer to peer networks, integration of religion and technological advancement (Bauwens, 2003). These challenges stem from the increasing interconnection of religions and cultures as well as the availability of information sharing. Nursing provides opportunity for unique encounters and challenges. The differences in culture and religion may intersect medical decisions on issues such as fertility, ethical termination of life at various stages, organ transplant, stem-cell research, and animal and environmental rights (Molloy, 2014). Working in the ICU, I often encounter challenges in both organ transplant (heart and lung) as well as futility of care and termination of adult life. People draw on their faith to help with decision making in these difficult circumstances. In these cases, it is important for the nurse to recognize and be respectful of potential religious differences. Learning of the different religions throughout this class will enable me to better understand and support decision making. The nurses’ role in facilitation of a healing environment and religious connection is integral, especially for the patient and family brought to the unfamiliar hospital environment. In my workplace we have various private quiet spaces, I direct people to these areas (if they prefer this space) for prayer and meditation as it is outside of the bustle of the ICU. In my 15 years of nursing experience I have found when people are able to connect with their faith, and feel supported by the multidisciplinary team, they are able to make more confident decisions about medical treatment. Though my personal beliefs and connection with God may be different than the people I encounter, this class has given me perspective. I will continue to be respectful of the space needed for prayer and meditation.
I identify as a Roman Catholic Christian. Working in a 32-bed cardiac surgery ICU at a large university hospital brings ethical challenges that may not be seen in other nursing specialties. Throughout my unit, I care for patients who have undergone high risk cardiovascular and thoracic surgeries, received Ventricular Assist Devices, heart and lung transplantation, or ECMO. Many of these patients have successful treatments, but the risks are high and occasionally I am faced with ethical challenges. With regards to advanced medical and surgical care, futile treatment and euthanasia, the Catholic Church has held a historically strong position. Euthanasia is against Catholic teaching, while “[it] is also permitted, with the patient’s consent, to interrupt these means, where the results fall short of expectations. But for such a decision to be made, account will have to be taken of the reasonable wishes of the patient and the patient’s family, as also of the advice of the doctors who are [especially] competent in the matter” (CAN, n.d., para. 8). Therefore, discontinuing treatment or withdrawing mechanical means of life support are not against the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Roman Catholics have strong associations with the sacraments and traditions. The sacrament “Anointing of the Sick” is occasionally brought to a patient for whom I am caring. There have been times when there is a plan to withdraw life support and this sacrament was offered. Families are invited to pray and offer support to the patient for peace and comfort at the time of suffering. This sacrament is not only for those who are actively dying but may also be done when a patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The anointing is believed to bring strength and peace to the person being anointed, and though God does not always heal the person physically this sacrament is strongly valued within the faith (Catholic Answers, 2013). A spiritual compass is provided to those who follow a religious path. It is important to be respectful of the differences and support each other in our journey through life.
Bauwens, M. (2003). Three Challenges for Global Religion in the 21st Century. Religion and Globalization. Retrieved from: http://www.integralworld.net/bauwens.html (Links to an external site.)
Catholic Answers. (2013). Anointing of the Sick. Catholic Answers. Retrieved from: https://www.catholic.com/tract/anointing-of-the-sick (Links to an external site.)
CNA. (n.d.). Vatican Document on Euthanasia. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved from: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/euthanasia-and-assisted-suicide/vatican-document-on-euthanasia
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