Spirituality is "sometimes just a hug": A conceptual analysis from the perspective of nursing students


Objectives: Definitions of spirituality abound; however, the importance of context and need for better understanding within health-care practice has been emphasized. In particular, the understanding of spirituality for nurses has been shown to have an impact both professionally and personally.

Methods: This study used a conceptual analysis to explore the understanding of spirituality by German-speaking nurses in an educational context.

Results: A total of 91 nursing students (83.5% female, 16.5% male) took the spiritual care course between January 2022 and January 2023. The majority of participants (n = 63, 69.6%) were in the 26- to 40-year age bracket, 50 (54.9%) identified themselves as Christian, 15 (16.5%) chose other, 12 (13.2%) atheist, 6 (6.6%) humanist or agnostic, and 2 (2.2%) Buddhist. A conceptual analysis of nursing students’ written responses to the question “What is spirituality to me?” was conducted. Two overarching categories were identified. The first category was titled “What aspects or characters are linked to spirituality?” and included 5 subcategories: people, life, experience, a sense of security, and capacity. The second category was titled “How is spirituality experienced, practiced and lived?” and included 5 subcategories: sometimes just a hug, to align one’s life with that purpose, to be content with myself, conscious attention to oneself, and demarcation from religion. These subcategories were interrelated to one another.

Significance of results: These findings have implications for how spirituality is introduced in nursing education.


Spiritual care education; Spirituality definition; Conceptual analysis; Palliative care; Nurses competencies

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