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Spirituality and family nursing: spiritual assessment and interventions for families


Ruth A. Tanyi,
Family Nurse Practitioner,
Lifestyle and Wellness Services,
PO Box 1185,
Loma Linda,
CA 92354,


Aim.  The aim of this paper is to propose a guideline for spiritual assessment and interventions explicitly for families, while considering each family member's unique spirituality.

Background.  Spirituality's positive effect is pervasive in health care and in the lives of many families; therefore, there is a need to integrate spiritual assessment and interventions in total family care.

Discussion.  The majority of published guidelines on spiritual assessment and interventions are designed predominantly for individuals. They fail to differentiate between individual and family spirituality or offer only brief discussions on family spirituality. Such guidelines are potentially problematic. They may lead nurses to focus only on individual spirituality and neglect to discern family unit spirituality or recognize the presence of conflicts in spiritual perspectives within the family. While other disciplines such as social work and family therapy have several guidelines/strategies to assess family spirituality, there is a dearth of such guidelines in the family health nursing and spirituality literature, in spite of the rhetoric about incorporating spirituality as part of total family assessment. As a beginning solution, guidelines are proposed for spiritual assessment and interventions for the family as a unit, and the category of spiritual interpretation to represent diagnosis is introduced. Case studies exemplify how to integrate the guideline, and illustrate elements that may favour specific interpretations which would guide the interventions.

Conclusion.  As nurses continually strive to assist families with their health needs, they must also attend to their spiritual needs, as one cannot truly assess a family without assessing its spirituality.