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Spotlight on spiritual care in nursing

Acute care nurses need support to introduce spiritual care in their daily work, according to new research.

Older more experienced nurses working in palliative care are more likely to include spiritual care in their day-to-day work than their younger counterparts, according to a new study.

The researchers interviewed ninety-two registered nurses (RNs) at seven major metropolitan hospitals, both public and private, in Sydney as part of the study.

The study found that younger acute care nurses, who were more likely to be tertiary educated than their senior nursing counterparts, said that either a lack of time or a desire not to be overly intrusive in a patient’s private life prevented them from discussing spirituality or spiritual care with those in their care.

Published in the August edition of the international Journal of Clinical Nursing, the University of Sydney study looked at the different approaches to spiritual caring and spirituality between palliative care and acute care nurses.

The study’s lead author, Dr Susan Ronaldson, said her team found significant differences between the two nursing groups.

“The relationship of spiritual perspective to spiritual practice was significant for palliative care, but not for acute care registered nurses,” says Ronaldson. “We also found that the palliative care RNs were older, more experienced and had been in their specialty area much longer than acute care RNs.”

“Palliative care nurses’ spiritual caring practice was more advanced and their spiritual perspective stronger, perhaps because they are dealing more regularly with end of life issues,” said Ronaldson.

“We found that a nurses’ ease with their own sense of spirituality was also integral to providing spiritual care. From our results we also concluded that the palliative care environment, is conducive to issues relating to spirituality”.

“Professional nursing bodies have been advocating for some time how best to address and deliver spiritual caring as a basic component of nurses’ education, “she says.

Historically, a stumbling block to spiritual caring has been an inability to define spirituality and spiritual caring as opposed to religion and faith traditions.

Ronaldson said that to overcome the perceived barriers to spiritual caring in an acute care setting nurses should be supported through mentoring from experienced nurses.

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