Spirituality and spiritual awareness central to good healthcare practice

Academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery call for an increased spiritual awareness 

The School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College Dublin are hosting an international conference today, to raise awareness of the necessity to address patients’ and families’ spiritual care needs in the healthcare setting.

The conference: The Spiritual Imperative in Healthcare: Securing Foundations comes on foot of an increasing body of evidence around spiritual care, competence, assessment and an awareness that person’s religious beliefs and spirituality should be sensitively explored and routinely considered as an essential component of care delivery.

Spirituality may be viewed as central in many people’s lives, it deals with issues of hope, meaning and purpose and contributes to health and wellbeing. Spirituality is core to many peoples’ identity and often is reported as vital in helping them to cope with their distress.   The health benefits of spiritual well-being on quality of life, anxiety, depression and anxiety are widely accepted internationally.

The issue of spirituality is pertinent in our current pandemic climate where many patients have suffered while in care settings with multiple levels of restrictions, restricted visitors to acute hospitals or nursing homes and minimal meetings with family members. Many patients have spent long periods alone and some were unable to have family members present as they approached death.  Society depended on our health care workers to be present with our relatives at this time.

The conference notes the expanding volume and scope of international literature that confirms nursing’s and the wider healthcare community’s interest in spirituality as a dimension of caring and holistic person-centred care. Internationally, there is a growing belief that professional nurses and midwives need direction regarding spiritual care. Many international studies have found that nurses lack specific skills in spiritual assessment, awareness and referral opportunities.

Speakers from Ireland, UK, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, and the US are presenting international perspectives on this emerging field of research.

The conference explores areas such as: equipping nurses and midwifes for spiritual care holistic communication in context of spiritual care, foundations of spirituality and spiritual development in human consciousness.

Recommendations

Academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery have recommended:

  • An increased spiritual awareness and recognition of spirituality as a standard for good practice
  • The integration of religious and spiritual aspects of care within nursing and midwifery practice, education and research.
  • The development of human connections and humanistic compassionate person-centred approaches to care within health care. This is a multipronged approach where the individual is nurtured on all levels.
  • Holistic approaches to communication when delivering patient care should encompass all aspects of care while nurturing the spirit.
  • Ongoing education training and research and espousing the value of mindful compassionate communication to enable effective modes of preparation to benefit care patients.
  • Ongoing support for staff in their caring role to support well-being and recognition of the need for self-compassion for healthcare staff.

 

Professor Kathleen Neenan, Chair of the SRIG group, School of Nursing and Midwifery said:

Spiritual care that recognises and responds to the human spirit when faced with trauma, ill health or sadness impending death can include the need for meaning, a safe space to express oneself or a place to allow rituals for prayer or sacraments or a human presence is relevant in modern healthcare delivery. We are privileged as healthcare professionals to share in peoples’ suffering and be present when they are experiencing deep hurt and when they are at their most vulnerable.

This conference allows us the opportunity to place the true value of delivering spiritual care centre-stage to our patients. We have come together to develop a deeper understanding of the issues and challenges that we encounter and help us more forward to translate the importance and relevance of spiritual care into clinical practice. We are indebted to healthcare workers all over the country for the care they have given so selflessly over their careers but especially during the COVID 19 pandemic.