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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So what. If it makes a 91 year old woman feel better, you can lie about believing in God. It's no big deal, and you're not lying to yourself, you're only telling a comforting lie.
It wasn't her comfort that the lie was for. It was for the woman in her charge.
You could have answered, "No, I don't ... but that doesn't stop you from believing." Whether that would have worked or not, no one can say, but if you had been treating her long enough that she at least knew you slightly, your actions would have spoken louder than any supposed belief might have. If she was, as you say, "sharp mentally," it's possible you could have played your cards face-up and still accomplished what you wanted to.

Problem is, I wasn't there, nor was I in your shoes, and no non-present third party could have adjudged the situation the way you did. It remains your call, and I for one can't condemn you for taking the action you did.
You did nothing wrong. Try not to let it bother you. It's not like it would have helped you or the old lady if you had told her the truth. Would I have lied? Don't know. I can say that I definitely would not have lied to someone younger and in her condition. But a 91-year-old woman? I may have.
I dont see whats wrong with it. I dont think she was really asking. I think that by 'do you believe in God,' she really simply knew that it wouldnt be honest but was desperate to have some sort of way to gather her stregth to help her through her physical ordeal. That was the way in which she has been trained to do it. If she had asked point blank when not suffering you wouldntve had to lie, but while shes in pain its not really a question thats shes asking. She just wants to feel that something bigger than her can provide her with stregth and that projection helps her to embody that ideal to help her get through her issues.

" Though I hate discussing my personal beliefs with patients, they often ask me what I believe"

That sounds really inappropruate for them to be doing. I could understand it if theyre in pain but just out of the blue is a bit of a violation. You can always say as a professional you arent allowed to discuss faith with patients, especially considering that many people of many different faiths and non faiths come through to use the services.
"That sounds really inappropruate for them to be doing"

As much as possible, I try to get the chaplain to jump in so I can avoid these kinds of situations. People do ask me a lot if I believe or if I'll pray with them, even say a rosary with them. There's been a few real bible thumpers who get the whole congregation to come to see them and have a group prayer and they want all their caregivers involved, even the doctors. Priests come in to bless the surgeons hands before an operation sometimes. Luckily, I've squirmed out of those situations, so far. Even the nurses who believe in god are creeped out by those people, lol. Most times we're so busy, its easy to avoid the subject and call the chaplain to the rescue. This time, there I was face to face having to tell a bold faced lie. It didn't feel right, but I really didn't have a choice. That would have been heartless.

But, yeah, in my line of work, you get asked that a lot. Kind of sucks sometimes.
Lisa, its called "compassion". My mother is in ill health at the age of 80. If she asks me if I've let Jesus back into my heart, knowing she'll be dead soon, I'd lie like politician and reassure her that I'm back in the flock.
No more a lie than not ruining a child's crassmass by saying you believe in Satan Santa.
No problem at all, you did the better thing.

During his final days before he passed away from cancer, my father-in-law, a devout Catholic, was only semicoherent, in a lot of pain, and the only thing that seemed to comfort him was reciting Hail Mary's and some other similar religious mantras, and having people around him with him join in. I have never been Catholic and find their reliance on magical incantations bizarre, but I went along with it all and accompanied him without hesitation- that time was about him and his needs, not about me.

Your situation was similar. You showed compassion to a frightened elderly lady.
When my Dad past away back in March, they had a big Catholic mass for him. Since my mass-every-morning, 78 year old Mom is very active in that church, I swallowed my pride and went up and swallowed a Eucharist for the first time in about 30 years. (Still tastes like crap.) Now my Mom (and family) knows I lost my faith long ago, but I couldn't sit it out in front of all her friends in that church, especially on the day she was burying her husband of 54 years. It does bother me I did it, but really, it's just a dried-up wafer.
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.




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