Rehabilitation nurses use of spiritual care
Gebhardt, Mary Catherine
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The purpose of this study is to examine the lived experiences of rehabilitation nurses providing spiritual care. The study focused on the nurses’ definition of spiritual care, how they learned to care spiritually, what spiritual care actually was, and how they learned to become comfortable providing spiritual care. Using phenomenological interview techniques, 14 rehabilitation nurses attending an annual education conference participated in interview sessions. All nurses were able to remember times they cared spiritually for patients and families. The main theme discovered when describing spiritual care was “listening to the soft voice.” This “soft voice” was the inner voice that taught the nurses to be aware of the spiritual needs of patients. The nurses defined spiritual care as being supportive, respectful, and making a connection. Spiritual care also included praying with patients and recognizing a belief in a higher power. Three themes became evident when the nurses described the actual experiences of providing spiritual care, 1) “little things,” 2) “received more than they gave,” and 3) “being used.” The spiritual care giving experiences were evident in the “little things” they did for patients such as giving baths, changing bandages, or listening to the patients. The nurses also mentioned they often felt they “received more than they gave” when providing spiritual care. Spiritual care also included a sense the nurses were “being used” by a higher power when providing spiritual care. Three themes emerged as the nurses spoke about how they developed a sense of comfort providing spiritual care, 1) “Just Do It,” 2) “rehabilitation nursing makes it easier,” and 3) “personal spirituality.” The nurses said they became comfortable providing spiritual care by “just doing it.” The nature of rehabilitation nursing also made providing spiritual care “easier” because of the extended relationship with the patient and family. Finally, nurses considered themselves more comfortable providing spiritual care as they developed a stronger sense of their own “personal spirituality.” Implications for practice, education, and research are discussed for both nursing and public health. Suggestions are made for further research in the area of spiritual care.