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Keywords:

  • spirituality;
  • religion;
  • nursing ontology;
  • nursing epistemology;
  • diversity

Abstract  Spirituality has long been considered a dimension of holistic palliative care. However, conceptualizations of spirituality are in transition in the nursing literature. No longer rooted within religion, spirituality is increasingly being defined by the universal search for meaning, connectedness, energy, and transcendence. To be human is to be spiritual. Some have argued that the concept of spirituality in the nursing literature has become so generic that it is no longer meaningful. A conceptualization that attempts to be all-encompassing of what it means to live a human life has a tendency to render invisible the differences that make life meaningful. For palliative patients in particular, a generic approach may obscure and relativize the important values and beliefs that inform the critical questions that many patients grapple with at end of life. A different approach to conceptualizing spirituality can be achieved through the use of typologies. Rather than obscuring difference, categories are constructed to illuminate how spirituality is understood within a diverse society and how those understandings might influence patient–provider relationships. What follows in this article is a dialogue illustrating one typology of spirituality constructed from a review of selected nursing literature. The hypothetical narrator and three participants, representing the positions of theism, monism, and humanism, discuss their understandings of spirituality and religion, and how those understandings influence the intersections between nursing ontology, epistemology, and spiritual care.