Patients of parish nurses experience renewed spiritual identity: a grounded theory study


L. Van Dover: e-mail:


van dover l. & pfeiffer j. (2011) Patients of parish nurses experience renewed spiritual identity: a grounded theory study. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(6), 1824–1833.


Aim.  This article is a report of a study of the process that patients of parish nurses experience when they are provided spiritual care in Christian churches, a context where patients and nurses share a common set of values.

Background.  Many studies have explored hospitalized patients’ views and experiences of spiritual care. However, little is known about the spiritual changes that patients experience as they receive care from parish nurses.

Methods.  The grounded theory method was used to explore what patients of the parish nurses experienced in spiritual care. Half of the participants were interviewed in 1999–2001 at the time of the parish nurse interviews, and half in 2005. Audiotapes were transcribed verbatim. Constant comparative methods were used to analyse the incidents of receiving spiritual care.

Findings.  Theoretical memos described how the ‘main concern’ of the patients to resolve their health challenge resulted in changes to their spiritual identity. Phases in the change process included: facing a health challenge, finding a safe place, releasing burdens, changing perspectives and joining or rejoining the family of faith. The essence the patients experienced was an enhanced understanding of who they were in God/Christ.

Conclusion.  The patient’s spiritual challenge is to re-conceptualize the self (as one who is known and loved by God) in the context of a particular health challenge. Spiritual care helps them find a new equilibrium in faith.