Appreciating Nurses and Their Recognition of Spirituality

(©Glowimages/Stock photo - models used for illustrative purposes)
(©Glowimages/Stock photo – models used for illustrative purposes)

The Michigan Legislature passed a resolution recognizing National Nurses Week –  May 6-12 – here in Michigan. It points out that the “146,488 nurses in Michigan comprise the largest group of health care professionals in the state.” And it calls on the residents of Michigan to honor our nurses and appreciate their efforts to improve the health of our state.

I’d especially like to honor the recognition by most nurses of the value of spirituality and spiritual care in nursing.

Here are some examples in which this is evident:

(1) A paper published in the American Nurses Association’s Online Journal of Issues in Nursing states that, “Nursing is an holistic discipline that nurses have demonstrated great enthusiasm for the techniques and modalities associated with the field of complementary and alternative care as these techniques assist nurses to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of care.” It includes a table of nursing interventions (Table 1 on page 5) suggesting that for spiritual distress nurses provide spiritual support to facilitate a sense of inner peace.

(2) A study conducted at the Harvard Medical School found that 87% of nurses surveyed in four Boston care centers that provide end of life care “thought that spiritual care should at least occasionally be provided.” Additionally, on average, 93% of the nurses endorsed the appropriateness of eight examples of spiritual care.

(3) Showing that this recognition is really worldwide, in 2010 the Royal College of Nursing in the U.K. conducted an online survey of over 4,000 nurses to identify the attitudes of its members towards spirituality and the provision of spiritual care. More than 95% of the nurses felt it was their job to identify the spiritual needs of patients. In addition, nearly 80% called for their training to include spirituality and spiritual care. One respondent in this survey said, “Spiritual care should not be added as an ‘add on’ to patient care but should be embedded in an integrated holistic healthcare approach.” Another respondent said, “I firmly believe that spiritual care is an integral element of health care.”

(4) And a great individual example for me of this recognition of spiritual care comes from a former Emergency Room nurse here in Michigan that I know who once shared with me that she and other nurses would often pray with patients – if the patients wanted them to, of course.

Florence Nightingale, often recognized as the founder of modern nursing, said, “If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in His service what He has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all; and I have never refused God anything.”¹

So, a big heartfelt “thanks” to all our wonderful, caring nurses!


¹  The Collected Works of Florence Nightingale: Florence Nightingale on Women, Medicine, Midwifery, and Prostitution by Florence Nightingale, published by the Wilfrid Laurier University Press in Canada, Lynn McDonald, editor, Page 68.
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