Nursing Times blogger Evelyn Khan-Panni on the importance of spirituality in nursing.
Spirituality is an essential part of our lives and cannot be ignored. As nurses we must be able to articulate it in the context of caring. We have long been acknowledged as experts in caring for the body, but it took us much longer to gain an expertise in caring for the mind, and this is another challenge, as people who are sick need to recover in body, mind, and spirit.
In a recent edition of the RCN Bulletin, (19 May 2010), Ben Funning reports on an RCN survey and Congress discussion on spirituality. The majority of the respondents said that spirituality was a fundamental part of the profession. However, the online survey of more than 4,000 nurses found that only 5 per cent felt they could always meet the spiritual needs of patients, while 80 per cent felt spirituality should be covered in nurse education as a core aspect of nursing. Clearly there is a big gap between the perceived need and what happens in practice.
In my view, spirituality is energy, individual energy, group energy, and collective energy. Individual energy is what motivates me, what gives me determination, courage, and conviction. Group energy is the same thing that occurs in small groups; for example family groups. Families also need to be motivated, determined, courageous, and have conviction.
Collective energy is what brings a large number of like minded people together, sporting events, open-air concerts, and to meet a famous person. If you have ever attended such an event I am sure you will have noticed that there is an atmosphere. This atmosphere reflects the collective energy and may go some way to explain why in the middle of a football match the assembled gathering will spontaneously burst into song and hundreds of people will suddenly find themselves singing the same song without apparent prompting from anyone.
Through our journeys in life we collect joys and sorrows. Our joys are demonstrated in achievement, happy times, and we celebrate. Our sorrows on the other hand come from disappointments and sadness. This is the place where a lot of our learning, deliberation, and change will occur. It is well known that we learn more in time of struggle and strife than in times of pleasure and harmony.
If, as was suggested in the online survey of more than 4,000 nurses only 5 per cent felt they could always meet the spiritual needs of patients that would seem to indicate that 95 percent feel they are unable to meet patient’s spiritual needs. Are the respondents to that survey able to meet their own spiritual needs? The article seems to suggest that many people think that spirituality is about religion. If that is your belief, then I ask you, are non believers without spirituality?
Spirituality is the ability to be able to retreat from your surroundings to a life of inner richness and spiritual freedom. It is a non material connection that derives from one’s higher purpose. There is a connection between religion and spirituality in the same way that other parts of our lives are connected to spirituality. When people are in religious mode, in a religious place, or just praying alone they are usually more at peace than at other times. They are in touch with their inner self; their inner self is their spiritual self.
In order for nurses to be able to attend to the patient’s spiritual needs they must be able to attend to their own spiritual needs to do that we must know what our spiritual needs are, and when they are most in need of attention. Life must be purposeful to be meaningful and we need to connect the past to the present for inward peace. If we lose sight of our purpose and cannot find any meaning in life we are likely to find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness, and we need help to escape.
Spirituality is about oneness, oneness with oneself, oneness with people in our immediate environment, oneness with family, oneness with friends, colleagues, classmates, associates, strangers.
On the larger stage spirituality is about oneness with our country folk, and oneness with the rest of the world.
A spiritual accomplishment is the ability to live to fight another day. It is inner strength, courage, hope, determination…Spirituality may be little understood, but its value and its power are felt in all that we do. When we understand it we can harness its power for the good we seek to do and for the benefit of others.
- Don’t miss our 2 part series on spirituality, to be published next week.
About the author
Evelyn Khan-Panni worked as a nurse tutor in the mental health service in Ireland for twenty four years. She also worked in Scotland, Wales, and Canada. She is currently living in London and is worked as a lecturer in Health Care.