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From our readers…How focusing on spiritual needs benefits the nurse

There is no question that in the complex and fast-paced world of healthcare, high levels of stress and tension are just part of the territory. Medical and technological advances over the last few decades have been beneficial, but have also taken our focus away from “being” with our patients to “doing” for our patients to a large extent. A nurse’s day revolves around many tasks to accomplish and attention is divided in many directions. We are losing the very essence of what beckoned us to become a nurse in the first place—the desire to touch another’s life and make a difference.

One simple way to help regain some balance or sense of purpose in a harried day, where one task blurs into the next, is to focus on the spiritual side of caring for our patients. Focusing on the spiritual dimension of care helps you in grounding yourself. One focus naturally pulls the other along with it; they enter together through the same doorway. The meeting of our patient’s spiritual needs is something that nurses are all too willing to relegate to the hospital chaplain or ministers never realizing what they might be missing. After all, nursing began as a very spiritually based vocation. Florence Nightingale based much of her ideas of nursing upon her rich spiritual heritage.

Nurturing the spirit

Over the last two decades there has been a gradual shift back to nursing’s spiritual foundation. We are realizing more and more something we’ve always known intuitively, we are beings made up of three deeply interrelated parts: body, mind and spirit. Hence the increasing popularity and focus on holistic care. While nurses may agree that attention to this these interrelated parts is needed when addressing care for their patients, they may not so readily nurture the body, mind and spirit within themselves.

Service oriented professions such as nursing have a tendency to be physically, mentally and emotionally draining. For a nurse to continue being effective as a healing presence for patients, it is essential that the nurse be fed spiritually as well. To be attuned to your patient’s spiritual dimension will unavoidably nurture your own soul as well. When we look at our patient’s with the intention of identifying spiritual needs, we must first take a moment to find a calming presence within us. Without this, we won’t even have mental access to the frame of mind needed to perform a spiritual assessment. The blur of activity slows down for a sacred moment of connecting soul to soul with your patients even if only for five golden minutes. The potential for renewal awaits both you and your patient.

In addition to a personal renewal, a transformation of the workplace might also begin to be noticed. One centered and balanced nurse creates a vibration that can ripple out and affect others on the nursing unit. This could help dissipate the negativity and conflict that leads to the hostile behaviors and rude language mentioned earlier. Negativity is a powerful force and without being grounded and centered, it is easy to fall victim to that force. Suddenly you are also noticing all the negativity around you as well, it is contagious. There are many potentially sacred moments in your day but in our frantic, busy state they go by unnoticed, as missed opportunities.

Practical strategies for the nurse

The first step needed to more purposefully include the spiritual dimension in care of patients is a greater spiritual self-awareness. Increasing one’s spiritual self-awareness is easy to do; all that is needed is willingness. Here are a few activities to start you on your way to more spiritually enriched life.

  • Focusing on the present moment
  • Forgiving yourself and others
  • Becoming receptive to and listening to that inner voice
  • Keeping a journal or dream diary
  • Creating a work of art such as painting, sculpting, knitting, gardening
  • Learning to play a musical instrument
  • Walking in nature
  • Helping others through volunteerism
  • Take time to notice what you are grateful for in life, be thankful
    (Taylor, 2002)

Achieving balance

When patients feel that we truly care about them as individuals they sense our connection with them on a spiritual level.

Focusing on the spiritual needs of our patients not only helps us in the workplace but benefits other areas of our lives as well. This is a time of great unrest and chaos on the planet. We all strive to achieve balance, harmony, inner peace and stillness in our lives.

More attention to our spiritual dimension offers a means of transcendence. It affords us the ability to notice the turmoil surrounding us and yet not be lost completely within it. Having this balance is the key to remaining in good health and having a greater sense of joy.

Virginia Gerber is associate program for the RN program at Mt. San Jacinto College, Menifee, Calif.
From our readers gives nurses the opportunity to share experiences that would be helpful to their nurse colleagues. Because of this format, the stories have been minimally edited. If you would like to submit an article for From our readers,click here.

From our readers gives nurses the opportunity to share experiences that would be helpful to their nurse colleagues. Because of this format, the stories have been minimally edited. If you would like to submit an article for From our readers,click here.


Taylor EJ. Spiritual Care: Nursing Theory, Research and Practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; 2002.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • It’s good to know that nurses and other service-based professions require you to be spiritually fed to be effective. My daughter is interested in being a nurse, and she wants to know what all is required to be effective as one. I’ll pass this information along to her for her benefit.


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