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NURSING IS A DEMANDING PROFESSION. Nurses work long hours, and with cutbacks in staffing, more and more is being expected of us. We face uncertainties with changes in the health care system. We confront moral and ethical dilemmas. We care for patients experiencing tough problems, which can trigger spiritual crises in our lives.1 In the midst of these struggles, we sometimes find ourselves exhausted.


Do you find yourself agreeing with these statements? Perhaps sighing and realizing how tired you feel?


Words used to describe this condition are burnout, compassion fatigue, spiritual distress, or being stressed out. Whatever words are used, it points to a nurse who is in need of spiritual care.


Research indicates that the quality of spiritual care nurses deliver depends on their state of spiritual health. Similar to the concept of Intake and Output, the better the nurse's spiritual needs are met, the better able he or she is to give spiritual care to patients. For the sake of our own health and the needs of our patients, we need to nourish personal spiritual health.


Here are practical suggestions toward improving spiritual health. As you read the list, ask God to speak to you about how you can implement these in your life.


Pray and meditate: I have a bookmark that reads, "A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to come unraveled." Praise and thank God every day, tell him how you're feeling, ask him for help (1 Cor 10:13). Consider praying on your way to work and/or praying with colleagues fifteen minutes before your scheduled shift.


Engage in regular Bible study: The Bible is God's love letter to his people. Multiple options exist in published individual and group Bible study guides. Purpose to study God's Word. Ask him to show you a way to do it.


Seek a daily quiet time and periodic retreats: Solitude is a way of making time for God and for you. People who practice Sabbath rest discover energy and enriched living.3 Sabbath-keeping ranges from a mini-Sabbath every day, to a day or afternoon each week to relax and enjoy God.


Be involved in a supportive Christian community: We need regular times of worship, teaching and fellowship with other Christians. Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) says, "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."


Spend time in meaningful activities: Do things that encourage you. Schedule lunch with a friend, volunteer; take meaning from your work as a nurse. A key word is schedule; make these activities a priority, and say no to interferences.


Participate in creative activities: Making something can be recreation. Learn a craft, play a musical instrument, join a choir, learn to dance, plant flowerbeds or a garden.


Read inspirational books: This is a way of focusing our minds on "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8).


Listen to uplifting music; appreciate God's creation: Watch a sunset or sunrise, take a walk. Find ways to lift your soul to the heavens.


Journal: This is a way of reflecting and becoming more self-aware, of finding clarity out of confusion. It can become spiritual bookkeeping-recording observations of God at work.


Simplify your life: Do one thing at a time. Know your limitations. Living in the present moment rather than always thinking about the future allows for focus and less fragmentation. Like the Serenity Prayer, give yourself freedom to leave out what you cannot do, do what you can and pray for wisdom to know the difference.3


Be gentle and forgiving of yourself and others: Jesus taught us to forgive ourselves and to forgive others (Mt 6:12). We are imperfect beings and can only do so much; purpose to forgive when needed.


Lighten up!! Proverbs 17:22 states, "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones." Truly, a merry heart is like good medicine!!


1 Deborah Sherman, "Nurses? Stress & Burnout," American Journal of Nursing 104, no. 5 (May 2004): 48-55. [Context Link]


2 Lynne Baab, Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).


3 Alcoholics Anonymous, The Origin of Our Serenity Prayer Accessed at on May 10, 2005. [Context Link]