Hospital Nurses and birth control pills

I am an RN working in a hospital with patients who have both mental health and substance abuse issues. Recently, a patient was admitted and her doctor said that she could continue her birth control pills while hospitalized. As a nurse, I am expected to dispense all medications the doctor has prescribed, but I don’t see any way that I could give her these pills. I don’t want to lose my job, but I also want to stay true to my faith. Last week, I dispensed her the other medications that the doctor prescribed, but instead of opening the plastic pack of birth control pills (which held a 30 day supply) and giving her a pill, I put the pack in front of her and allowed her to take her own pill. Even though I didn’t give it to her directly, I did bring it to her. Am I still wrong to do this? Are there any concience laws (in Florida especially) that would protect me should I refuse to give her them? I am very concerned about this, and appreciate your responses. God bless

I’d be very concerned if I couldn’t trust the nursing staff at a hospital to follow my doctor’s instructions. What if you take it upon yourself to withhold these pills, and it turns out they are not, or not only, for birth control, but to treat another condition?

Like the other poster said, they may not be for contraceptive purposes, plus, I assume while this person is hospitalized she will not be participating in any “activities” that would even allow the contraceptive portion to be put to any use. During her hospital stay, you are probably giving her something that will just simply lessen menstrual cramps.

If these were for a contraceptive purpose, I’m pretty sure delivering the box would be immoral.

But given that she’s in a hospital, I doubt it’s for contraception, so there should be no problem.

Your story is so true to my own! I am a pharmacist working in a similar community (group homes for mentally ill and drug addicts) and find myself dispensing orders for contraception in this population. I know that, more likely than not, it is for contraception and not acne/menstrual irregularities/etc but I also do not have the prescriptive authority to override a doctor’s orders. I try to tell myself that I cannot know every situation because I was on BC following an ovarian cyst for 4 years and am celibate- and as a young woman one may assume otherwise (as many gynos did give me funny looks when I explained celibacy as a choice). I know this is not much of an answer, but I hope you find some comfort that there are other catholic health care professionals with your same struggle for truth. I will keep you in my prayers tonight because I can relate to your battle! God bless!

It is her choice not yours. As she apparently wants to take this medication, give it to her. I used to deal with this choice and struggled with it out of a desire to be true to my faith. Then I came to my senses.

I have no right to refuse medications to anyone, make assumptions about why they are taking them or to enforce my faith convictions on them. Us Catholics need to get over ourselves a little bit. Your a nurse, give the woman her meds and mind your business. The rest is between the patient and God, not you and God.

The other answers are probably correct. It would not be a sin to do what your doctor is prescribing you to do.

That said, if it really bothers you, maybe this article is relavent. If your hospitol is a “Catholic” hospitol, there may be a reason to avoid personally administering contraceptives. But remember, there is possibly medical reasons for someone taking them.

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19750313_quaecumque-sterilizatio_en.html

Can you not ask another nurse to dispense the Pills? This scenario probably doesn’t happen that often, so I doubt that the other nurses would be upset over this very reasonable request that would allow you to practice your profession without violating your religion.

I work in a hospital, so I know all about the nursing shortage. But there is always a DON in every hospital, and if there are no other nurses available on your floor, this manager could come to your floor and administer the med that is troubling to your conscience. This is a freedom of religion issue, and your request is very reasonable, and I can’t see why it should be refused or cause the hospital such a hardship that they have to terminate your position. Just make sure that you make this request in a soft-voiced, reasonable manner, and that you express your gratefulness to the DON or whoever makes the decision to grant your request.

In our city, people under 21 are not allowed to ring up liquor at the cash register in the grocery stores (or other stores that sell liquor). So they call another checker or the manager, who comes over to the cash register and rings up the liquor. I appreciate this–I think it’s a good reminder to the people who are buying liquor that this substance is not just another form of soda pop,

In the same way, I think your request would be gentle reminder to nursing staff that the Pill is not just another pain reliever.

Not a great idea to with hold medication that is prescribed by an MD and listed in the patients medication protocol. It’s most likely an infraction that could possibly mean the loss of your state license. :blush:

I don’t know where anyone has gotten the idea the OP intends to withhold them. That is NOT what the OP asked. The OP asked only about her own role in administering them, and whether FL had conscience laws in place that would allow her to refuse to administer them (i.e. someone else would administer them).

OP, I suggest you get in touch with the National Catholic Bioethics Center and ask for direction on whether this constitutes material cooperation that would be itself sinful.

I also urge you to contact the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses and/or the Thomas More Law Center for guidance the legal and professional aspects of this situation.

oh boy

The nurse knows what drugs are prescribed for typically, they aren’t dumb robots who know nothing. It’s very plain to see what things are for, and more often than not, right on the chart it says exactly what the drug is prescribed to treat.

I’d be very concerned if a nurse just gave someone a pill and the nurse didn’t know what he was giving it for. That’s extremely super duper dangerous and not within standards of practice for nurses.

If a nurse doesn’t know what a drug is prescribed for then that nurse shouldn’t give that drug period dot end until the nurse finds out. That’s very bad nursing and it could be a licensure issue should something bad happen. “Oh, I gave ___ but… I really didn’t know what it was for.” Really? Come on. No. The nurses who just “follow doctors’ orders” are the ones who kill people and get sued (and lose). Of course a birth control pill is unlikely to do that, but it’s just the principle.

It’s really not too much trouble to find out what something’s for and if it’s really such a big deal to get an answer then I’d have some second thoughts about the facility…


To the OP: frankly I find it ridiculous that “doctor’s orders” is an excuse for anything and that people are suggesting it. NO ONE’S conscience can replace your own. Some doctor’s conscience can’t replace it. I think you are perfectly reasonable to have second thoughts about this. You don’t forfeit your conscience just because some order is written. Would you participate in an abortion? Of course not.

Let’s summarize:

A prescription written on the authority of a physician does not take precedence over your soul.

Someone else’s conscience cannot replace your own.

I’m an RN who spent 8 years as an ICU nurse and it is against all standards of medication administration for a nurse to not know why they are giving a medication to a patient…it is a huge part of our role and responsibility, and furthermore it is also part of our responsibilities to tell our patients what medications we are giving them AND WHY. I’ve never administered a medication to a patient without knowing why I’m giving a patient a medication or explaining to a patient why I’m giving them that medication.

My conversations go like this
“Hey Mr Jones. I have 2 meds that I’m giving to you right now.
–This IV here is lasix, the doctor has ordered it because of your CHF. It’s a diuretic, be aware that this is going to make you urinate often.
—These big horse pills here are potassium pills. You’re getting them because it is an electrolyte replacement and we don’t want you to develop low potassium when you start to diurese from your lasix”

If a nurse does not know WHY a medication is being given for…Then it is her responsibility to find out…Not just to administer the med like a mindless drone

Excellent recommendation.

Everything else wanders around those two issues, and most people do not have enough training to answer both questions correctly.

Thank you to everyone for your input, and for these excellent referrals. God bless you all. You are appreciated!

*Thank you very much for your response, but I’m not sure if this would cause another moral or ethical issue. If the other nurse or DON were Catholic, I would be invitiing them into the same moral predicament. *

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