Lots of us have probably already seen this - an atheist physician asks how best to honestly answer religious patients when asked about her beliefs.



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As an RN, I try not to club vulnerable patients or their families over the head with my atheism.  If they are asking questions about the practitioner's beliefs it is usually because they are feeling very vulnerable and in need of emotional support and validation.  It is not the time to yank the religious rug out from under them, especially if they regard their church, pastor, priest, rabbi, or holy book etc., as a vital support system or coping mechanism.  If questioned, I try to tactfully and respectfully state that I don't have a personal belief in a god, but am there to help them in any way possible as a nurse and a human being. I ask if they have fears or concerns that they want to talk about, and if they would like me to contact their clergy for them.  If they want to tell me about Jesus or the Bible or other religious beliefs, I tell them that I'm glad they find it comforting, and try to ease the conversation towards their real fears or concerns.  Usually patients are satisfied just to have a sympathetic ear, and will quickly get down to sharing concerns that can be addressed more directly by the nurse or physician.


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