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Keywords:

  • holistic;
  • religion;
  • spirituality;
  • transcendence

Spirituality has been the subject of discussion over many years, yet understanding its nature, and usefulness during illness, can be elusive. Nurses and other health-care practitioners can often be in the position to help patients discuss spiritual matters because of their direct contact on a frequent basis, but might not feel confident to do so because the subject can appear to be overly complex. This paper summarizes some of the essential elements of spirituality as synthesized from literature that refers to it. The literature draws attention to spirit as the core of a person's being, and the notion that spirituality comprises multiple dimensions that exist internally or become externally manifest through behaviours. The presence and use of spirituality can lead to such outcomes as peace of mind, self-fulfilment and alleviation of suffering. Underpinning all spirituality is the concept of transcendence where a person can be ‘lifted up’ above the challenges of illness.