Caroline Petrie (London Daily Telegraph)
A Christian nurse in Britain may soon be fired for offering to pray for her patients’ recovery.
Caroline Petrie has been suspended and faces disciplinary action because her employer claims she failed to show a “personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity” when she suggested the prayer, the London Telegraph reported.
Petrie, 45, a wife and mother of two, is a community nurse who works for North Somerset Primary Care Trust. As part of her job, she visits patients who are sick and elderly. Petrie said she never forced her Christian beliefs on any of her patients but simply asked if an elderly woman would appreciate the blessing.
“I simply couldn’t believe that I have been suspended over this,” she told the Telegraph. “I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. All I am trying to do is help my patients, many of whom want me to pray for them.”
Petrie visited the elderly woman, a resident in Winscombe, North Somerset, in December.
“It was around lunchtime and I had spent about 20 to 25 minutes with her,” the nurse said. “I had applied dressings to her legs and shortly before I left I said to her: ‘Would you like me to pray for you?'”
The patient said, “No, thank you.”
Shortly afterward, Petrie’s employer contacted her and asked her why she had offered the prayer. The patient, a woman in her late 70s, had complained to the trust.
Another nurse approached Petrie the following day and told her the woman had been surprised by the offer. Petrie apologized and asked if she had offended the patient.
The nurse replied, “No, no. She was just a bit taken back. You must be aware of your professional code of conduct. I would be careful.”
But that wasn’t the end of it. Petrie returned home to find a message on her answering machine. She was suspended without pay on Dec. 17 and forced to attend a disciplinary meeting. Petrie expects to be notified of her employer’s decision this week.
The nurse told the Telegraph that she has been a Christian since she was only 10 – following her mother’s tragic death from breast cancer.
“My faith is very important to me,” she said.
This was not the first prayer incident that has prompted her employer to discipline Petrie.
She offered a prayer card to an elderly male patient in October, according to the report. He joyfully accepted the gift.
However, the man’s caretaker objected to the gesture.
Petrie’s boss reprimanded her, saying, “As a nurse you are required to uphold the reputation of your profession.
“Your NMC [Nursing Midwifery Council] code states that ‘you must demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity’ and ‘you must not use your professional status to promote causes that are not related to health’.”
Petrie was instructed to participate in an equality and diversity course.
“If there is any further similar incident it may be treated as potential misconduct and the formal disciplinary procedure could be instigated,” her employer warned.
Petrie said she stopped giving prayer cards to her patients, but she found it difficult not to simply offer prayers.
“My concern is for the person as a whole, not just their health,” she said. “I was told not to force my faith on anyone but I could respond if patients themselves brought up the subject [of religion].”
In the most recent incident, the elderly woman claims she was not insulted by the gesture, but that she is concerned other patients might take offense.
Petrie has contacted the Christian Legal Center, a group that seeks to promote religious freedom, for representation.
“Caroline Petrie has been suspended pending an investigation into the matter,” a spokesman for North Somerset Primary Care Trust told the Guardian. “She is a bank nurse and she has been told we will not be using her in this capacity until the outcome of our investigation is known.
“We always take any concerns raised by our patients most seriously and conscientiously investigate any matter of this nature brought to our attention, the spokesman continued. “We are always keen to be respectful of our patients’ views and sensitivity as well as those of our staff.”
Concerned individuals may e-mail the North Somerset Primary Care Trust.
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