What Nurses Want: More Guidance on Spiritual Care

HealthLeaders Media News, June 1, 2016

Cleveland Clinic researchers have developed a working definition of spirituality to help establish a framework of spiritual care training and resources for clinicians providing bedside care.

A recent study on nurses' definitions of spirituality and their comfort-levels with providing patients spiritual care has led a Cleveland Clinic research team to create a working definition for spirituality in healthcare.

The article "Critical Care Nurses' Perceived Need for Guidance in Addressing Spirituality in Critically Ill Patients," was published in the May 2 edition of the American Journal of Critical Care.

"Without a clear definition, each nurse must reconcile his or her own beliefs within a framework mutually suitable for both nurse and patient," said lead author Christina M. Canfield, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, CCRN-E, in a media release.

"Nurses who seek to give whole-person care to their patients' sense that something beyond the technical aspects of their job is needed."

She is a program manager, Cleveland Clinic eHospital and clinical nurse specialist at Cleveland Clinic's main campus.

Through interviews with 30 nurses, researchers found that even though nurses report they are ready to offer direct spiritual support if they sensed it was needed, they had trepidation about initiating spiritual support for fear of potentially offending the patient or the patient's family.

Nurses also said they were eager for resources and guidance on how to address their patients' spiritual care needs.

The authors developed the definition of spirituality as "that part of a person that gives meaning and purpose to the person's life. Belief in a higher power that may inspire hope, seek resolution, and transcend physical, and conscious constraints," based on the study participants' answers to the following questions:

  • Could you tell me about a time when you interacted with a patient who really needed some spiritual support or attention?
  • Please describe your personal definition of spirituality.
  • How do you see the connection between religion and spirituality?
  • Do you feel like you have to be religious to be spiritual?
  • Could you talk to me about your own comfort providing spiritual care to critically ill patients?

'Whole-person Care'
The goal of developing the definition was to "to empower nurses who seek to give whole-person care to their patients," and to create a framework to help guide in development of resources for nurses providing bedside care to critically ill patients.

"Nurses are ready to offer direct spiritual support if they sense it is needed, but hesitate to initiate such support out of concern that doing so could be offensive to the patient or interpreted as proselytizing," Canfield said.

"Resources, such as classes or reference guides, may be helpful to those wishing to improve their comfort with providing spiritual care to patients."

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