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Nursing competencies for spiritual care


  • Donia R Baldacchino MSc, PhD, Cert Ed, RGN

    1. Lecturer, Coordinator of MSc Health Science (Nursing/Midwifery), Coordinator of Nursing Research Institute of Health Care, University of Malta, Malta
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Donia R Baldacchino
16, St John's Street
QRM 13 Malta
Telephone: +356 21 468227, +356 25551847


Aim and objectives.  The aim of this paper is to reveal the main nursing competencies for spiritual care, which emerged from data collecting from qualified nurses in Malta.

Background.  For nurses to deliver spiritual care, they must be competent to provide care on a physical, mental, social and spiritual level. As spiritual care may be influenced by culture, this study explored the competencies for spiritual care from the Maltese nurses’ perspective.

Methods.  A descriptive exploratory study investigated nurses’ competencies in the delivery of spiritual care to patients with myocardial infarction. Data were collected by means of an open-ended questionnaire on qualified nurses (n = 77) followed by an in-depth interview on a stratified random sample (n = 14) of nurses from the same respondents.

Results.  The four main nursing competencies identified were associated with the role of the nurse as a professional and as an individual person; delivery of spiritual care by the nursing process; nurses’ communication with patients, inter-disciplinary team and clinical/educational organizations and safeguarding ethical issues in care.

Conclusion.  This study demonstrated the complexity of spiritual care, which requires nurses to increase their awareness of the uniqueness of each individual patient with regard to the connection between mind, body and spirit; the assessment of the spiritual status of patients during illness and the implementation of holistic care as recommended by the Nursing Code of Ethics.

Relevance to clinical practice.  These findings will enable nurses to consider the importance of spiritual care, which may allow them to help empower patients find meaning and purpose during times of illness. More emphasis should be put on spiritual care in the pre- and postregistration education. Further research to translate these main competencies into specific competencies will guide spiritual care.