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Who's afraid of spiritual care? You, apparently

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OK so I’m overstating the case. Perhaps you’re not “afraid” but it seems that many nurses are “cautious”.

How do I know? Well by the findings of the RCN Survey of Spirituality 2010.

In his concluding remarks Professor Wilf McSherry, the report’s author, makes a number of points:

  • 83% of nurses think that spirituality and spiritual care are a fundamental aspect of nursing
  • Many nurses spiritual care enhances patient experience
  • Nurses have a broad, eclectic and inclusive understanding of spirituality.

However, more worrying is the fact that:

  • 92.2 per cent of nurses felt they only ‘sometimes’ met their patients’ spiritual needs

So what’s going on here?

Are nurses really scared of providing spiritual care to their patients? Well, this doesn’t really chime with what I see on the wards at my hospital

Are nurses really too busy to give spiritual care in a frenetic environment? Maybe, but again that’s not my observation

Do nurses not understand what spiritual care is about? Not according to the survey data


What’s my evidence? Well a few months ago I hosted a tweet chat for @WeNurses. You can find the full transcript here #WeNurses: Spirituality . And when I asked how people had given spiritual care, there were a variety of responses, including:


@marshaj1772: #wenurses helping people to find a way to understand why we suffer enable them to ask “why me”

@bartontd: For me spirituality is about acknowledging humans - it is what we are in all our diverse ways

@DGFoord: Spiritual care can be as simple as holding someone’s hand, an arm around the shoulder or just simply listening #6Cs

@Toribird79: it’s in the hand holding and the empathy and “being with”

@Marmalade_Magic: RT @DGFoord: “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life” Buddha


OK, so you get the gist. Spiritual Care for these nursing colleagues means providing comfort and compassion and care and kindness. It means facilitating meaning and giving a chance to express the big questions.

So here’s the point. If you were to ask the nurses in the RCN Survey if they had regularly shown HOLISTIC CARE, my guess is that most would have said “Of Course!” And given that most spiritual care fits into the “non-religious” template, it seems to me that this hits the nail on the head.

AND HERE’S THE DEAL! I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU CALL IT! Spiritual Care. Holistic Care. Kindness. Compassion. Humanity. Empathy.


So my advice. Don’t be cautious about spiritual care.

Keep doing what you are doing. Whatever it is called, it is making a difference!

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Don't tar us all with the same brush, there are some lovely nurses out there who do address this,but maybe not enough

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