In this scholarly journal, Deal and Grassley (2012) examined the importance of spiritual care delivery by nurses, based on the experience of nurses involved in the care of patients suffering from kidney disease.
It was argued that the spiritual well-being of a patient has a great influence on the other areas of the patient's health and general disposition towards almost all issues concerning the patient’s life. Patients often undergo "spiritual distress" when afflicted with very serious life-threatening ailments such as renal failure as observed in this article. This spiritual distress thus does not augur well for the wellness of the patient. Patients attribute their ability to cope with dialysis to the spiritual support and prayers they receive from church members and also by “trusting God”. The implication of this is that the importance of spiritual care to patients suffering serious diseases thus cannot be overemphasized.
Nurses by virtue of their close, frequent and often prolonged interaction with patients with chronic illnesses (renal failure in this case) have been identified as being in the best position to also provide spiritual care alongside nursing care to these patients. In fact, nursing care is all encompassing as it takes care of the patient’s mind, spirit and body.
Ranging from seemingly insignificant activity like holding hands with the patient to a more involving exercise as arranging for Christian communion with a chaplain, nurses help provide the patient with spiritual care. It is further noted that all acts of kindness of a nurse to a patient even without a religious undertone, such as a show of respect touches the spirit of the patient and is thus a form of spiritual care. The extent to which a patient receives spiritual care from a nurse will depend not only on the need of the patient but also on the quality and depth of spirituality of the nurse. More serious spirituality needs of a patient may require the attention of a chaplain.
In this study, participant nephrology nurses in dialysis department were interviewed to relate their experiences with respect to giving spiritual care to patients with renal failure. The outcome of the interaction with these nurses resulted in a classification of the theme of their experience into five broad categories. The first, “drawing close” is about establishing a “connection” with the patient and seems the most important aspect of spiritual care giving. The second theme identifies nurses as giving spiritual care out of their own “spiritual resources”. In the third category we find nurses that felt the “pain of spiritual distress” of patients often expressed in the form of anger towards these nurses. Inadequacy of “spiritual resources” in terms of time, space and spiritual energy made up the fourth theme. The fifth theme “diving down deep” is so because nurses often have to “reach deep within” to respond to patients’ inquiries in a conversation.
Nurses’ spiritual care to patients is not without its challenges. Nurses are often at the receiving end of the frustration of patients expressed in the form of anger. Sometimes nurses are not sure whether to proceed with some aspects of spiritual care not knowing how the patient will receive it. Although, nurses do not want to trespass on their patients’ religious beliefs, spiritual care can still be given even when there is no parity in the beliefs of the patient and the nurse.
The article report findings on the experience of nephrology nurses in giving spiritual care to patients. All the participant nurses were Christian. I think an inclusion of participants from other religion orientation will help strengthen the position of the authors. They have argued that giving spiritual care has nothing to do with religion. So I think obtaining the views of other religion practitioners may help refute another theory that it is psychosocial care and not spiritual care. Although the article has given good information on the inevitability of giving spiritual care to patients, in my own opinion, I think it should be based on request from patients. Going by the challenges often involved with giving spiritual care ranging from a conflict of religious beliefs to the stress it inflicts on nurses, giving spiritual care will overburden nurses and hamper delivery of their main duties.
The report is very rich in information on the issue of spiritual care giving to patients suffering renal failure. For the student nurse, it is an eye opener to the inevitability of giving spiritual care to such patients as it cannot be divorced from nursing care. It thus prepares the mind of the student nurse for the challenges associated with spiritual care giving and also better equipped to deal with such.
Deal, B., & Grassley, J.S. (2012). The Lived Experience of Giving Spiritual Care: A Phenomenological Study of Nephrology Nurses Working in Acute and Chronic Hemodialysis Settings. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 39(6), 471-481, 496.