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Keywords

 

Authors

  1. Taylor, Elizabeth Johnston PhD, RN

Abstract

Because prayer frequently sustains coping and brings comfort, it is an important resource for nurses to support or offer. How shall nurses incorporate prayer in nursing practice? This article explores practical aspects of including prayer in bedside nursing care, including suggestions for assessment, supporting patients when beliefs about prayer challenge, discussing prayer with clients for whom prayer may be harmful, overcoming nursing barriers to prayer, and more.

 

P. M., an experienced nurse, was recovering from major abdominal surgery. Complications arose, and she felt emotionally drained as well. A capable young nurse was providing competent postoperative care. Exhausted and anxious about her healing, P. M. asked her young nurse: "It really doesn't matter to me if you and I don't share the same beliefs, but would you be so kind as to say a prayer with me?" P.M. formulated her question very carefully so as not to make her nurse uncomfortable. Imagine her disappointment when this nurse surprised her with, "No, I don't do that."

 

R. R. had just said his temporary goodbyes to his family and had been placed on a gurney in anticipation of an imminent journey to the operating suite. A nurse who was unfamiliar to R.R. and his family came by and without speaking placed a card with a written prayer on it in his hand. The client and his family were disturbed at the nurse's brazenness.

 

These contrasting true stories both illustrate how a nurse can erroneously view the role of prayer in nursing practice. While the first story describes a nurse who fails to address a patient's request for verbal prayer, the second story describes a nurse who unethically imposed a written prayer.

 

So how do nurses incorporate prayer in nursing practice? This article explores practical aspects of including prayer in bedside nursing care, including various questions that nurses may have about why, how, when, and with whom to pray. Although the answers to these questions provide a good beginning for exploring prayer in nursing practice, they are unavoidably limited by the religio-sociocultural context of this author and most of the research cited (ie, Christian, North American). This context, for example, influences the usage of the term God here, as 75% of Americans report a supreme being such as God as to whom they pray most often. 1 These partial observations and suggestions about praying with patients are helpful, however, considering the pervasiveness of Christian religious beliefs and Western spiritual practices.