Praying With Patients

prayerThose of you that have been following my blog for any amount of time, can probably count the number of times I even mentioned my faith on one hand. It’s not something that I have made a habit of bringing up, but I feel that this topic is worthy of discussion. Some recent conversations with friends and coworkers inspired me to write about this and seek the opinion of my fellow EMS folks.

I recently asked my friends on the blog Facebook page how they felt about prayer in the patient care setting and if they had ever done so. To be honest, I kinda expected World War III to break out in the comments, but to my surprise, everyone pretty much agreed that prayer was appropriate when the patient asks for or agrees to it. Many people said that they had indeed prayed with patients, while most admitted to silently praying without the patient’s knowledge. A few said that they had done neither, but still felt it was an appropriate setting to do so.

For the longest time, I tried my best to keep my faith and my work separate. If patients brought up religion, I tried to change the subject. It made me uncomfortable. At the time, my life was going in directions that I wasn’t exactly proud of. I felt that EMS had changed me as a person and it really challenged my faith to the point that I just tried to avoid thinking or talking about it at all. It actually wasn’t until fairly recently that I came to terms with myself, my life and my faith in God. After admitting some hard truths and making a commitment to never let myself slip into that dark place again, I started to move forward and haven’t looked back.

As a Christian, I am of the belief that everyone has their time. I believe that God has a plan, but I also understand that He gave us free will. I absolutely believe that we can affect whether or not somebody lives or dies. As an EMS professional, I think it’s extremely important that we do our very best, every call, every time. We should stay up to date on our knowledge, and we should always strive to be the best care providers that we can. That being said, when it’s their time, it’s their time and there isn’t a thing we can do about it.

A recent encounter with a patient really turned me on to the power of prayer. I transported a middle-aged man to the nearest receiving stroke facility, which was roughly an hour-long drive. He was having stroke-like symptoms, but was alert and oriented. Without getting into too much detail, his CT scan was inconclusive and the sending facility believed that he was possibly having a stroke…..long story…..maybe a good case review for later. I met the patient in his room and noticed right away that he was frightened. He asked me several times during the transport if I thought he was going to die. I tried my best to explain what we thought was going on and I tried everything I could to try to ease his anxiety. He seemed like a very nice man and was very respectful……just scared. It was at that point that I did something I had never done with a patient in my 10+ years in EMS. I asked the man if he believed in God. He said yes. I assured him that we were all going to do everything we could to ensure he returns home to his family in good health and the rest is in God’s hands. I then asked if he would like to pray with me…..and he did. I said a short prayer with him and his demeanor immediately changed. He seemed at peace with what was going on and was very calm. I’m not quite ready to discuss everything that happened during that brief moment, but I can say that it was a life changer for me.

Whether you believe in God or not, you can’t argue that praying for this man made a difference. Sure, you can throw out psychological suggestions, but the simple truth is that it calmed him down and ultimately helped him through the experience. Whether that was an act of God, or a psychological response is irrelevant to me.

Since that call, I have had several occasions where I prayed with patients. Sometimes it’s the best I can do to help them in their time of need. Do I make a practice of this on every call? No. I don’t force my beliefs on anyone, I don’t try to recruit people to attend any churches and I try my very best not to offend anyone. For the most part, the times that I have prayed with a patient has been at their request.

As healthcare professionals, we are supposed to be patient advocates, and that doesn’t stop at the protocol book. If prayer is what a patient needs to help them through a tough situation, then I see no problem in participating or even leading.

I know this can be a touchy subject, but I would love to hear your views and experiences on the matter. Have you prayed with / for a patient? What are your thoughts on the subject?


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