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Nurse fights for right to wear crucifix

A British nurse was moved to a desk job after refusing to remove her crucifix necklace last fall — a move she contends was an act of religious discrimination.

Shirley Chaplin, a 54-year-old nurse, has worn the crucifix necklace without incidence throughout her 31-year nursing career.  Her employer asked her to remove the necklace in the fall of 2009 after a risk assessment showed it could be pulled by one of the confused elderly patients in Chaplin’s care.  Chaplin refused and was reassigned.

She’s currently telling her story to an employment tribunal.  Chaplin told the tribunal that she was “forced to choose between her job and her faith.”  Seven Anglican bishops have issued a letter of support on Chaplin’s behalf.

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust Hospital, Chaplin’s employer, maintains that their request reflected hospital policy and was motivated by health and safety concerns.

What do you think? Do you wear religious jewelry to work? And should there be any jewelry restrictions for nurses?

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Jennifer Fink, RN, BSN

Jennifer is a professional freelance writer with over eight years experience as a hospital nurse. She has clinical experience in adult health, including med-surg, geriatrics and transplant; she also has a particular interest in women’s health and cancer care. Jennifer has written a variety of health and parenting articles for national publications.
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12 Responses to Nurse fights for right to wear crucifix

  1. Jmiller

    You neglect to include vital information from the original article in UK news that the same hospital freely allows Muslim females to wear the nijab and/or burka, which, in my view, poses a much larger issue with universal precautions vs contamination. None the less, this discriminates between two different expressions of religion.

  2. Rob Cameron

    I wear a cross each and everyday. I have worn it under my clothes and outside. I wear it with pride and would be both offended and angered if my employer told me I could not wear it. It is not an issue in regards to infection control, and if I am in a situtation such as a take down or something where it may get in my way, I can simply slide it under my shirt.

    I think a birka would be a greater issue with infection control, but I would bet that the hospital did not have the guts to confront that issue.

  3. krys

    i think it’s personal choice.. she’s been a nurse for 31 years she know’s the risk… wear at your own risk..

  4. Lin

    If it is hospital policy for safety reasons then the issue should be addressed regarding birkas & other religious attire being worn.

  5. Steph

    I wear my cross necklace EVERY DAY, I NEVER take it off (sleep and shower w/ it). I would definately be offended if my employer told me I had to remove it.

    I agree with the above comment, ‘wear at your own risk’. Come on, if a pt pulled it off and broke it, well I’d be responsible for replacement!!

  6. Michelle

    If the necklace was hanging down low were a patient could of gotten a hold of it then that should of been address at that moment if it is around the neck about an inch it should be fine i feel it had to do with the crucifix.

  7. Carla

    If it was a safety concern, then ID badges that were hung on necklaces around the neck would have to be banned too.

  8. Pam Rossano

    I think a religious symbol like a Cross, a Star, or any other Small religious item is such a personal matter and should be freely tolerated.
    If you are in the OR tuck it in or during a procedure where there is a chance of break in sterile procedure tuck it in. I tuck in my badge when I insert a foley or scrub for surgery.
    Doesn’t take much to maintain sterility. But if you work around an MRI or such then it may be necessary>

  9. Beth Q

    The employer asked her to remove it as a safety precaution, I assume they asked the same of all nurses wearing any necklaces. I feel this is a completely justified requirement. Now, the issue with the burka/hijab, that is another issue. I have worked with muslim nurses who wore a tighter head/neck covering, which did not interfere with infection control at all. There are many choices out there for professional muslim women in the health care field. If a hospital wishes to make special requirements, then they need to offer alternative choices for their employees who follow religious based clothing/jewelry rules. I totally agree with the hospital not allowing health care workers to wear necklaces around elderly dementia patients-I had one rip my necklace off years ago, and the same thing happened with my earrings. That taught me about wearing dangly jewelry at work!

  10. alan

    I couldn’t care less about any organized religion except that it seems they are always trying to ram “their” views down your throat and make you accept their opinions on morality or whatever. So please remember to keep your evangelizing out of the workplace.

    But as regards to this issue… if one person is allowed to wear a cross than anyone must be allowed to wear a symbol of their “faith” whether it be a star, a yin/yang, a pentagram, a bear tooth, a Satanic upside down cross, an eagle feather, or whatever. Either we are all inclusive, or we are all exclusive, there can not be an exception made for one belief system but not another.

  11. Mary Lou

    I don’t think it was a religious issue. It was a safety issue and a policy was being enforced. The nurse should have removed the necklace and placed it elsewhere out of the reach of an elderly or confused patient. There are reasons for rules. Don’t take it so personally. If you disagree, discuss it later with your charge nurse, there are other solutions.

  12. NenaMataHari CNA

    We’re not supposed to wear any necklace in the Dementia/Alzheimer ward because of the possibility of a resident grabbing it. Same goes for dangling earrings. Some populations can make these things unsafe. I don’t think the whole story has been told here.

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