Prayer nurse returns to work after suspension

Tue, 24 Feb 2009

Caroline Petrie, the nurse who was suspended from her job after she offered to pray for a patient, has returned to work.

Mrs Petrie’s employers, North Somerset Primary Care Trust, invited her back earlier this month after widespread media coverage of her story.

But she delayed her return because she said she wanted to be clear about the terms of the offer.

The Trust has since acknowledged she was acting in her patient’s “best interests” and Mrs Petrie says she can still pray for patients if she asks them first “whether they have any spiritual needs”.

Mrs Petrie, a committed Christian and married mother of two, was suspended last December because bosses said she broke “equality and diversity” rules by offering to pray for a patient.

The nurse from Weston-super-Mare is said to be “relieved” the situation has been resolved and looking forward to going back to work.

She said: “I feel really happy to be going back to work. In a way it was good to be able to talk things through with my bosses and now we all know where we stand I think it will be easier.”

She added: “I can still pray for my patients as long as I keep within the boundaries of the care plan, and ask them first whether they have any spiritual needs.”

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which backed Mrs Petrie, welcomed the decision to reinstate her.

A spokesman for the CLC said: “The decision highlights the importance of being able to take personal faith into the workplace rather than leave it at the door.”

The NHS trust which investigated Mrs Petrie said it recognised she was acting in the “best interests” of her patients.

In an announcement regarding Mrs Petrie’s reinstatement earlier this month, the Trust stated: “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.”

Guidelines have also been drafted this month by the General Teaching Council (GTC) which could see teachers face similar situations to that of Mrs Petrie under the banner of ‘equality and diversity’.

The draft GTC guidance states that teachers must “promote equality and value diversity”. It was a clause like this found in the nursing guidelines which resulted in Mrs Petrie’s suspension.

The guidance has not yet been finalised, and the GTC is inviting public responses to its draft code in a consultation open until 27 February.

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