Are Spirituality and Nursing a Natural Fit—or Best Kept Separate?

When Loretto Klug, coordinator of the parish nurse program at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in the historic hamlet of Freistadt in Mequon, checks someone’s blood pressure, she’s also taking their spiritual temperature.

That’s from a story about parish nurses working in the U.S. There are more nurses doing this than we’d known. Here’s another excerpt:

Parish nurses are registered nurses who volunteer or are paid by the congregations they serve. Some are paid by health care providers such as Aurora Health Care and ProHealth Care in Waukesha.

They typically conduct blood pressure and other health screenings, help people manage their medications, organize health fairs, visit shut-ins, train volunteers and make referrals. They can also sometimes help people deal with billing and insurance issues.

They also spend time praying with patients and sometimes engage in grief counseling. Migdal even administers Communion, she said.

It’s part of their holistic approach to congregants’ health needs, advocates say.

Religion, spirituality, faith, the mystical: all of these come up from time to time in submissions to AJN and in letters to the editor about various topics both controversial and not-so-controversial. 

There are many religions and many angles on spirituality—which isn’t, of course, always the same thing as religion or belief—and many ways of thinking about nursing as a vocation, a profession, a paycheck, and so on. What role does spirituality or religion play in your life as a nurse? How does it inform your practice or help you make meaning out of what you do? Does it have a place in serious discussions of nursing as an evidence-based profession deserving of equal respect to medicine as practiced by physicians—or should it be kept out of sight and seen as a strictly private matter? 

Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

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2009-06-10T19:52:37+00:00 June 10th, 2009|career|5 Comments
Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Samina Shafik, RN July 12, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    I was initiated into sufism by my grandmother who had the rare blessing of being recognized as a sufi by a shaykh from the 800 year tradition of India. Through the years I have endeavored to advance my knowledge. I have learned healing practices that began with the prophets- secret knowledge that has been preserved in the esoteric orders of ancient healers. The techniques that were handed down to me, produce effects so profound as to defy simple explanation. I wholeheartedly believe that the holistic approach to nursing is a movement that will create planetary healing.

  2. […] while back, we noted a news story about parish nurses, and asked whether spirituality and nursing are a good fit—so it seems appropriate to mention two stories […]

  3. Teresa, RN,CNS,PhD June 22, 2009 at 11:15 am

    I fully agree. One of nursing’s distinct qualities is the holistic approach. We should not lose this.

    I know some nurses oppose including spirituality and religion in their nursing care because they’ve witnessed religious proselytizing by health care providers. We must address the proper way to include attention to spirituality in our nursing education programs to help zealots realize it is not their position as professionals to preach.

  4. WysWoods June 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I am smiling because I found this site after going to the Library to find an article about cancer advocacy in Health Care. I am a RN with a BSN in Nursing, MS in Community Health, MDiv and DMin and 41 years in Nursing. I am so interested in reading about how health and healing could be wrapped and given as a beautiful and value added( new business language in health)spiritual gift. Thanks for the gateway into this great topic

  5. Lana June 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I think a persons religion,family values and everything about them is part of medicine!
    we need to learn to treat the whole person not just the disease!

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