I consider myself to be a pretty enlightened human. I am accepting of almost every person and the choices that they make. I have my own thoughts and beliefs, but I try not to let these become a barrier to the way I make friendships or deal with patients. I have lived abroad, and I have travelled extensively. I have worked in slums and seen extreme poverty alongside eye watering wealth. I have attended weddings on three continents all with different traditions and religions. I have friends who believe, and practice entirely different ways of life and I love to hear about their different celebrations and practices.
But, am I really enlightened as a nurse? Can I bring this into practice?
I know the Christian holidays, I know if a patient was admitted on 24th December and was a Christian they would potentially feel the removal from their family more than another time, I would be able to sing carols, talk about the nativity, even put up a tiny Christmas tree.
But do I know that about other cultures and beliefs. Not really. I have vague knowledge of some festivals and of oil lamps, or light. Of sacred food and of days of family meals and music and dancing. But I don’t know the dates on which they fall, of what they really mean to others or of how I can help my patients to engage with these if they want too.
We learn as students to accept individuals and the NMC code mandates that we “recognise diversity and individual choice.” I am not calling that into question. But can we go further? Should we as students take the time to understand more about different cultures, religions and celebrations? Are their resources we could share to provide us with that understanding?
Perhaps as a student one of the simplest things we could do is to know what the festivals are for the major religions. To know what they mean and the basic acts and symbols that commonly are connected with them. In my search to find this information I have found two resources one a calendar of festivals with a brief explanation www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/religious-festivals and secondly from the same group a document that has the greetings you can use for two festivals per religion so that hopefully we can say the right thing to the right patients at the right time! www.interfaith.org.uk/uploads/Final_Faith_festivals_document_2018.pdf
If we know these things and try and embrace them, do we take one step closer towards a truly unified society that accepts and celebrates difference. Does this then lead to better patient care, a more holistic and rounded view?
Keep your eyes peeled for details of our tweet-chat in which we look at celebrations and festivals.
Written by Clare Manley (@Mannersofmarple)