Lawnwood Regional Medical Center: Guilty of Religious Discrimination?

The purpose of this post is to poll the public in regards to the possibility of religious discrimination occurring in a hospital setting.

On February 28, 2009, I was admitted to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, FL with an injury and subsequent serious infection on the lower leg. During the majority of my stay (seven days), I was consistently the butt of religious-based comments from the hospital staff. This began with the admissions nurse after being seen in the Emergency Room, when she asked the usual, “What religion are you?” This is asked in case there is a need for religious/spiritual counsel at any point during the stay. When I advised her that I was pagan and would not need religious services, she looked at me funny and remarked, “Oh, you’re not Christian? You’ll have to look into that.” (No, lady, I won’t.)

On March 2, 2009, between 1 and 2 p.m., a respiratory nurse came to my room to discuss the dangers of smoking, which is also standard “patient education” in this facility. The nurse noticed that I had a walking stick at the foot of my bed, which is decorated with feathers and a small leather pouch (your typical walking stick purchased at a Pow-Wow vendor). She asked me point blank if I was a witch. I said, “Well, I am Pagan, but I am not a ‘witch,'” and she glanced over to my day nurse and began commenting that she would “have to pray for me,” and other such things. I said, “with all due respect, again, I’m not Christian, so I would appreciate it if you didn’t offer to pray for me.” This led into the day nurse beginning to grill me with all sorts of questions about witchcraft and I said again, I am not a witch. At one point, she made the comment, “why don’t you use all your hocus-pocus {complete with hand gestures} to get better?” Truly offended at this point, I asked them to leave the room.

About an hour later, the day nurse came back in and I let her know that I was upset with the respiratory nurse for starting that conversation, and that religious talk did not belong in a hospital unless the patient requested counsel, which I had not. She said she did not know that such things had offended me, lightly apologized and went about her business. Shortly after, the respiratory nurse who started the debate came in and apologized. It was at that point I explained to her that religion is a very sensitive topic to a good many people and explained to her that I am an ordained Reverend and do counseling with people of many different paths and faiths, and that each one is just as valid to the next, that we had no right to judge what another chooses to believe. She agreed, but I never saw her again.

During the course of that day, the day nurse who joined in the chiding became notably physically rougher with me as the day progressed, taking a leaking IV and roughly shoving it back into my arm, causing bleeding and further leakage of medicine which she ignored for the next two hours.

I finally begged her to change the IV site and she took the bad one out of my arm and installed another into my hand, so physically rough that it caused undue pain to the point of my crying out, screaming for her to stop and prompting my fiance to run out of the room for a new nurse.

The supervisor returned with two new nurses, saw the way the day nurse was handling the IV and demanded she stop immediately. After I calmed down a bit, she taped the line into place and was not allowed to provide my nursing needs for the rest of my stay.

Over the next few days until the day I was released, I had several random nurses and CNA’s come into my room asking if I was a witch. I would ask them, “where did you hear that?” and explain that no, I am not a witch. They would reply that “they just heard about it.” Even as I was being released, the CNA taking my final blood pressure was asking me questions pertaining to my religion, again saying, “oh I just heard that…” After the third try of taking my blood pressure so that I could be released (it was quite elevated by that point), I laid on my left side, got a lower reading by a full 30 points, and stood up to leave. The CNA’s parting comment? “Did you PRAY for that to go down?” Unable to comment, I only glared at her and walked out.

The day after I returned home, I took a walk to the end of my block (just the other side of the house next door) and a woman who was a CNA at the hospital came up to me on the street (neighbors had gathered to view an accident that had just occurred at the end of our road) and mentioned to me that a bunch of people on the floor were talking about “me and my witchcraft” after I left. At this point, I was appalled. Then, the daughter of a neighbor (who also works at the hospital and saw me there) advised me that the entire floor was talking about me after I left, saying “that witch is finally gone.” The tone of her voice was discomforting.

So not only did I have to deal with constant religious harassment while in the hospital, now my neighbors are talking about me in my own neighborhood due to religious information (actually MIS-information) that was discussed about me behind my back at the hospital. This makes me extremely uncomfortable now that my neighbors are looking at me funny and talking about me.

Opinions? Feedback?

About lifeinpawprints

I'm a 40-something single mom blogging from the East Coast of Florida, trying to have faith in a world that has not been so kind. Always searching for a creative outlet, be it blogging, photography or crafting things from god-knows-what.

Posted on March 7, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. If you’re up to it, I think you should talk to a lawyer about this. Medical records are supposed to be confidential.

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