I'm a nurse.  Last night, a very frightened 91 year old woman who had a fracture in her spine was crying and praying that she would heal and not die from this.   She asked me point blank if I believed in god.  I lied and said yes.  

Its still bothering me.  I felt violated in a way, having to lie but what else could I have done?   She was very sharp mentally, and obviously struggling with her faith, asking me why god was letting her suffer in pain.    I tried to change the subject and reassure her that she would get better from this and that was the truth, which it is.   She was actually feeling sicker than she is..   Still, did I do the right thing?    I still feel like such a traitor to myself and I know I'm going to be faced with this again, some time.   Though I hate discussing my personal beliefs with patients, they often ask me what I believe.

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When you "take care" of people, it's mentally and physically. As a former paramedic and a full time atheist I had to confront this as well. This woman was struggling with her faith, as well as her health. Telling her that you didn't believe in god would have worsened her physical condition by causing more panic, anxiety, and general distress. By "lying" you effectively did your duty as a nurse. In my opinion when you give yourself to helping others, you have to put others before yourself. That means that your views on religion and politics have to be put on hold when you put that uniform on. You need to do/say whatever is is going to help the patient. It's why I feel that oath Dr's take should have a paragraph added that specifically states to keep any religious or personal beliefs out of health care.
The lie may not be bad, but its toll on you is greater than on your patient. I might have said, "It is not my faith that will ease your pain, but your own strength." That's not a lie, and carries no implications. She's the only other person who knows what you said, and probably will remark on your caring nature if the topic ever came up.
Like most of the others who have responded, I think you did the right thing in the situation and no harm was done by this "lie".

Saying "I don't discuss religious matters" would pretty much define you as a "non-believer" wouldn't it?.... It would have been a dead give-away that you weren't a Christian! Most Christians love to share their faith and talk about their spirituality.

In times of crisis, the "healing" and "strength" language comes bubbling to the surface. It would be a difficult challenge to avoid religious references at YOUR workplace, that's for sure. Keep it as vague as possible when it happens again...refocus the direction of the conversation back to the patient...which you did nicely in this particular situation.
I used to lie to my mother to make her feel better. It is sad that we need to lie but I think comforting others is far more important. It is interesting that christians seem to have less regard for the feelings of others than we have for them.
I think you did the right thing.You as a nurse are trying to bring comfort to a patient.I would have done the same.
I work in the same profession, kind of, and when working on the patients machines I often get asked what I believe in. On some level, you want to tell them the truth, but when they are in such dire need of reassurance, I view it not as neccessarily a lie, but more or less as a 'white lie' similar to when I tell my partner that the current dress she is wearing doesn't make her look like Aunt Fannie from Robots.

I guess it bothers each person differently, and sorry for the late response, but I think that you shouldn't beat yourself up over this. If you told her differently, she might have heard your views, but it also might have caused stress on her that was not needed, and/or caused her to be apprehensive about your treating of her, and that could have turned negative really quickly. I've seen it all to often.

I play it by ear, and depending on the severity of the illness/impairment that they are experiencing base it off of facts. Is my telling them I am an Anti-Theist (and thus having to explain it to them) going to cause them more needed stress (and the dreaded I'll pray for you)? Each situation is different.
Lisa,

Everyone pretty much agrees that you did the right thing. I'm in patient care too. I get into similar situations with patients. Of course, each situation is different from the last, and each time I usually think of what I should have said, much later. My hindsight is much better than my foresight.

The longer I'm involved in patient care, the more I realize I have to try to be separate from the patients' religious and social beliefs. I've seen a few Muslim patients who don't accept Jews caring for them, and many women who insist on a male provider even if there isn't one available. Quite a few Mormons sooner or later make sure I know they are Mormon.

I don't think there is anything wrong with stating "I don't beleive in religion" and if they insist further, state "No. But my job here is to make you feel better and make you more comfortable." or something like that. In a way, there is no "right" here, but I think there is something passive-aggressive about someone trying to use their fragile state to bring you into their circle of delusion.

I don't think you did anything wrong, either. But I don't think it's wrong, either, to be true to yourself.
Don't feel shame. What you have experienced is empathy and there is absolutely no shame in it. Ironically, empathy is something that, in my experience, real and staunch believers are incapable of, so you should probably take pride in being different from them. You didn't betray yourself, you brought comfort to another human being in distress. I don't think you would have chosen such a hard job without some sort of vocation for it, some sort of calling. Well, in acting the way you did you were true to that calling.
I know a doctor who has the best reply to desperate people should the situation happen again. "I'm not sure if god has anything to do with it, but we see miracles on a regular basis here"
What would House do?

I like Alex's answer although I would say wonders instead of miracles because there are no miracles.
I agree you did not do anything wrong. Your job is to comfort people and maybe her asking is just needing to feel like someone's looking out for her. And that someone is you.
I see no major harm in that lie. At 91 it seems unlikely that she is going to have a sudden conversion to reason. Even if she was going to, from the circumstances she was in at that moment it seems to me that she just wanted reassurance. I don't think you were being a traitor to your beliefs. I think you were being a kind and decent person, who was willing to put exercising her pride and right to express her beliefs aside to comfort and old woman. There is a time and a place for the expressing of our beliefs and while I would not expressly condemn someone for being honest with the woman in that circumstance, I personally prefer to see people acting with compassion. I am vehemently anti-religious most of the time but I don't see the need to really harm someone either. It is a matter of circumstances and I for one think you acted with conscience.

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