Nurses' models of spiritual care: A cross-sectional survey of American nurses


Objectives: Despite there being many models for how spiritual care should be provided, the way nurses actually provide spiritual care often differs from these models. Based on the premise that the way a person enacts their work role is related to how they understand that role, this study aims to describe the qualitatively different ways that nurses understand their spiritual care role.

Methods: A convenience sample of 66 American nurses completed an anonymous, online questionnaire about what spiritual care means for them and what they generally do to provide spiritual care. Their responses were analyzed phenomenographically.

Results: Four qualitatively different ways of understanding emerged: active management of the patient’s experience, responsive facilitation of patient’s wishes, accompaniment on the patient’s dying journey, and empowering co-action with the patient. Each understanding was found to demonstrate a specific combination of 5 attributes that described the spiritual care role: nurse directivity, the cues used for spiritual assessment, and the nurse’s perception of intimacy, the patient, and the task.

Significance of results: The findings of this study may explain why nurses vary in their spiritual care role and can be used to assess and develop competence in spiritual care.


Nurse; Spiritual care models; Phenomenography; Competence

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