OLDER more experienced nurses working in palliative care are more likely to include spiritual caring in their day-to-day professional activities than their younger counterparts in acute care.
The Sydney Nursing School study, published in the August edition of the international Journal of Clinical Nursing, looked at the different approaches to spiritual caring and spirituality taken by palliative-care and acute-care nurses.
The researchers interviewed 92 registered nurses at seven major metropolitan hospitals, public and private, in Sydney.
They found that acute care nurses, who were more likely to be tertiary educated than their senior nursing counterparts, said that either a lack of time or a desire not to be overly intrusive in a patient’s private life prevented them from discussing spirituality or spiritual care with those in their care.
The study’s lead author, Dr Susan Ronaldson, said her team found significant differences between the two nursing groups.
“The relationship of spiritual perspective to spiritual practice was significant for palliative care, but not for acute care registered nurses,” Dr Ronaldson said. “We also found that the palliative care RNs were older, more experienced and had been in their specialty area much longer than acute care RNs.
“Palliative care nurses’ spiritual caring practice was more advanced and their spiritual perspective stronger, perhaps because they deal more regularly with end-of-life issues. We found that a nurse's ease with his or her own sense of spirituality was also integral to providing spiritual care. From our results we also concluded that the palliative care environment was conducive to issues relating to spirituality.”
Dr Ronaldson said professional nursing bodies had debated for some time how best to address and deliver spiritual caring as a basic component of nurses’ education. Historically, a stumbling block to spiritual caring had been an inability to define spirituality and spiritual caring as opposed to religion and faith traditions. He suggested that to overcome the perceived barriers to spiritual caring in an acute care setting, nurses be supported in specific areas.
“In a busy acute-care environment, nurses should be offered support and mentoring from nurses experienced with spiritual caring and spiritual caring education specific to their setting,” she said.
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