Background. Spirituality is an increasingly discussed topic in nursing. In some parts of the UK there is a policy requirement to establish policies of spiritual health care which are appropriate to a multi-cultural society. In the nursing literature, spirituality is discussed from religious and secular perspectives which seem impossible to reconcile into a coherent philosophy.
Aims. To discuss the relationship of spirituality to nursing and to suggest how we can think about spirituality as nurses working in a society of many faiths and cultures.
Discussion. Spirituality can be thought of in relation to individual patients and nurses. It also has significance for the profession of nursing and for health care as a whole. The difficulty of defining spirituality is discussed, and it is suggested that a definition of ‘spiritual nursing’ may be more achievable. Different concepts of spirituality are compared, including religious and secular spirituality. The relationship between religion and spirituality is seen as potentially problematic, with some religions denying the existence of secular spirituality. Secular spirituality and New Age movements are non-religious but spiritually influential phenomena. The problem for nursing is how to reconcile the immense variety of approaches to spirituality.
Conclusions. The concept of spirituality as a meta-narrative is considered, and a postmodern appreciation of pluralism is employed as a way of embracing different spiritual realities. Spiritual nursing can be an opportunity for nurses to enlarge their understanding of the human condition rather than a narrowly defined concept to be applied within a model of practice.