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Authors

  1. Meyer, Cleda L. PhD, RN

Abstract

Despite the emphasis on spirituality in nursing, educators may wonder if they really make a difference in preparing students to provide spiritual care. This research investigated the effects of student characteristics and the contribution of nursing education to this ability. The author shares findings from a survey of spiritual care attitudes and practices. Various methods are suggested for including curriculum content related to spirituality.

 

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, one responsibility of nursing education is to prepare nurses to identify spiritual distress and to provide spiritual care. 1,2 Unfortunately current research shows many nurses in the work place feel inadequately prepared to provide spiritual care due to various reasons, including lack of adequate time to build rapport, uncertainty about their personal spirituality, the belief that spiritual care should be left to chaplains, and insufficient education about providing spiritual care. 3-5 While it is unrealistic to expect nurse educators to overcome all of these barriers, by investigating the attention given to spirituality in educational programs and determining the factors that contribute to the student's perceived ability to provide spiritual care, educators may obtain a better understanding of how to prepare students to assume responsibility for this care.

 

Nursing education emphasizes the need to provide holistic nursing care for the patient and family. The American Holistic Nurses Association identifies holistic nursing as care that considers the inter-relationships of the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions of the individual, recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 6 Historically, meeting the religious needs of the patient was synonymous with providing spiritual care, however current definitions of spirituality embrace a broader concept.

 

Spirituality may be defined as "The core essence of the self capable of experiencing inner peace and unifying interconnectedness with a higher power that provides meaning and purpose in life displayed by interconnectedness with others and concern for the natural environment."(7,p. 8) Religion is defined by Ingersoll as a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things forming the basis for a medium of organized worship and fellowship. 8 Even though many people choose to express their spirituality through religious practices, Hall says "Who besides me is to say whether my spirituality should be manifest as harmony, joy, peace, awareness, love, meaning, being, and so on?. I argue that the content of my spirituality is personal to me, and, as my nurse you get to discover what this is."(9,p. 86-87) By preparing students to provide spiritual care they may enter this "journey of discovery" with their patients.