[A] survey of over 4,000 nurses found that only a small minority (5%) felt that they could always meet the spiritual needs of patients, and the vast majority (80%) felt that spirituality should be covered in nurse education as a core aspect of nursing.

The most important spiritual need identified by nurses was having respect for privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs (94%). Spending time with patients giving support and reassurance especially in a time of need (90%) and showing kindness, concern and cheerfulness when giving care (83%) were also key concerns.

The above excerpt is from an article in Health News Today about a survey conducted among nurses in the UK. And here’s one more excerpt, a direct quote from a nurse who took part in the survey:

“I am a Christian. However, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to impose my beliefs on others while they are in a vulnerable position. What I do believe is that I support them in the particular spiritual needs during that time – whether they be Christian, Muslim, Atheist, whatever. It is their right to be treated as a whole, unique person and it is our duty, as nurses, to treat all our patients holistically, for the person they are and the beliefs that they hold. Physical care has to be tailored to each individual and so should spiritual care.”

But why bother? After all, who has time? Well, spirituality may affect outcomes. A 2004 article published in the Journal of Family Practice reviewed recent research (and also offered a number of practice recommendations).

Most people have a strong awareness of themselves as spiritual beings. For many, their spirituality profoundly impacts, and is impacted by, illness. A review of studies in which spiritual factors are included suggests spirituality influences the process of healing significantly, either positively or negatively.

Once intimately connected in Western medicine, argues the article, medicine and spirituality long ago took different paths:

With the advent of the scientific revolution and the emergence of the scientific method in the late 1500s, the relationship between spirituality and science changed dramatically. Since this new experimental method could not be readily or confidently applied to God, or to one’s experiences with God, religion/spirituality was excluded from the realm of science and a chasm emerged between the 2 realms.

by Lel4nd, via Flickr

What do you think? Murky waters? Do nurses have a role in providing “holistic spiritual care” for patients, whatever their own or their patients’ religion or lack thereof, or is this beyond the scope of the job? What’s your experience? -Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor

Bookmark and Share