Nurse Caroline Petrie: I will continue praying for patients
The nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient has vowed not to change because she cannot separate her faith from her profession.
Caroline Petrie, who has been reinstated as a community nurse, said she did not think she would be doing her job properly if she was forbidden from offering spiritual comfort to her patients.
„It is me, it is a natural thing for me to do,” she said. „If I am nursing, I would offer prayer to somebody and I am not going to change.”
Mrs Petrie, 45, from Weston-super-Mare, was removed from duties last December after asking an elderly patient in Winscombe, Somerset, if she wanted her to pray for her.
Although the 79-year-old woman was not offended, she was „taken aback” by the suggestion and reported the comment to her carer.
Mrs Petrie was subsequently suspended on suspicion of failing to „demonstrate a personal and professional commitment to equality and diversity”, while the hospital investigated.
Two months later, after her case appeared in the media, North Somerset Primary Care Trust relented and said she could come back to work, but Mrs Petrie did not know about the decision until she was contacted by The Daily Telegraph.
Yesterday the mother-of-two said she would behave in exactly the same way: „I cannot divide my faith from my nursing care, I have to be the person I want to be.
„I have had a passion about going into nursing since I was about seven. It is all about loving and caring for each other and offering support.”
In the trust’s statement, it said it recognised the fact that Mrs Petrie felt she was acting in the „best interests” of her patients.
It went on: „It is acceptable to offer spiritual support as part of care when the patient asks for it.
„But for nurses, whose principal role is giving nursing care, the initiative lies with the patient and not with the nurse.
„Nurses like Caroline do not have to set aside their faith, but personal beliefs and practices should be secondary to the needs and beliefs of the patient and the requirements of professional practice.”
Yesterday, Mrs Petrie said the guidance was still unclear and she would not be able to comply to such conditions.
„If they said ‘please don’t ask patients to pray’ then I am sorry, I can’t promise that, so where do we go from there? I would have to contact my lawyer.”
Mrs Petrie is represented by the Christian Legal Centre, which described the hospital’s climbdown as a „victory for common sense”.
But CLC spokeswoman Andrea Williams said the nurse’s case was part of a growing trend to ostracise religion from society.
„Caroline Petrie is the face of what happens when equality and diversity laws that were created in the name of tolerance actually impose intolerance.
„Caroline doesn’t feel that her faith and work life can be separated and I am seeing an increasing number of cases like this. Many people are now scared and frightened about what they are and are not allowed to say.”
Mrs Petrie, who became a Christian at the age of 10 after her mother died from breast cancer, qualified as a nurse in 1985 and started working as a community nurse for the North Somerset trust in February last year.
She said that in 24 years of nursing that she had only been asked to pray by a patient on three occasions, but had offered to pray for people on hundreds of occasions without complaint.
She said she had only received two objections, once when she produced home-made prayer cards and this most recent incident.
By Caroline Gammell
Photo: JAY WILLIAMS