Providing spiritual care: being and doing
Having looked at what spirituality is and is not, in this section spiritual care is explored.
Spiritual care has been defined as: ‘That care which recognises and responds to the needs of the human spirit when faced with trauma, ill health or sadness and can include the need for meaning, for self worth, to express oneself, for faith support, perhaps for rites or prayer or sacrament, or simply for a sensitive listener. Spiritual care begins with encouraging human contact in compassionate relationship, and moves in whatever direction need requires.’ Spiritual care matters, NHS Education for Scotland (2009).
Take a look at what two nurses who responded to the RCN survey had to say about spiritual care:
- “I think that many nurses confuse spirituality with normal compassion and caring. While in practice, I was happy to listen to patients talk about their beliefs, but did not feel it was my place to discuss 'why god was letting this happen to me' etc. Although I am an atheist that would never prevent me from seeking advice from, or referring the patients to, those who would provide the 'spiritual' aspects of care the patient required. Need clarification on terms here though. Spiritual does suggest a 'religious' bent to care, that is, listening to the patient, acting with compassion etc. But as mentioned earlier, such approaches are part and parcel of good nursing care. You listen, empathise, sympathise, know when to talk and when simply not to say anything, you know when to 'be with' the patient and when they might just need time alone. This is not spiritual in any sense other than good nursing.”
- “I don't think patients necessarily ask for spiritual care specifically but a nurse provides it in the way she/he gives time to the patient to discuss their illness and in the way she/he treats that patient e.g. with dignity, respect etc. I think spirituality is a fundamental part of a person’s make up, whether they practice a particular form of spirituality or not and we all have a spiritual aspect to ourselves.”
It may be helpful to explore spiritual care further by asking the following questions:
- When does the spiritual come into focus?
- What does spiritual care look like and what does it do?
- What skills are needed?
Reference: NHS Education for Scotland (2009) Spiritual care matters: an introductory resource for all NHS Scotland staff, Edinburgh, NES