A critical incident study of nurses’ responses to the spiritual needs of their patients
Aims of study. The aims of the study were to carry out a critical incident study to: (1) Describe what nurses consider to be spiritual needs; (2) Explore how nurses respond to the spiritual needs of their patients; (3) Typify nurses’ involvement in spiritual dimensions of care; (4) Describe the effect of nurses’ intervention related to spiritual care.
Background. In the caring professions a focus on individuals as bio-psychological-spiritual beings is gaining recognition and this notion is based on the premise that there should be a balance of mind, body and spirit for the maintenance of health in a person (Stoll 1979). Emerging research highlights the importance of spiritual care in nursing and suggests that there is scope for improving this dimension of care in order to improve the quality of life for many patients. However, there is very little evidence about how nurses respond to the spiritual needs of their patients. Therefore the purpose of this study was to map by critical incident techniques how nurses construct and respond to patients’ spiritual needs in a variety of clinical settings.
Methods. Critical incidents were obtained from 115 nurses. The data from these incidents were subjected to content analysis and categories were developed and described. The emerging categories were subjected to peer reviews to ensure reliability and validity of findings.
Findings. The findings suggest that there is confusion over the notion of spirituality and the nurse’s role related to spiritual care. A variety of approaches to spiritual care emerged in this study from the critical incidents derived from nurse respondents. These were categorized as ‘personal’, ‘procedural’, ‘culturalisit’ or ‘evangelical’. There was an overwhelming consensus that patients’ faith and trust in nurses produces a positive effect on patients and families, and nurses themselves derived satisfaction from the experience of giving spiritual care. In this respect, spiritual care interventions promote a sense of well-being in nurses as well as being a valuable part of total patient care.
Conclusion. The study concluded that there is scope for developing an ideal model of spiritual care using the critical incident data from this study.