Providing & Accepting Spiritual Care
Nurses face issues of life and death which affect them personally and professionally. How do we develop spiritual resources for living with dying – for people in our care, and for ourselves?
In April, more than 90 people attended a breakfast seminar co-sponsored by the “Called to Care” Nurses group and Hosanna Church in Lakeville, MN and NCF for nurses and healthcare colleagues in the Twin Cities.
The speakers communicated love for Christ and for people by connecting powerful stories with practical principles to care for people.
Sue Steen is a nursing professor at Bethel University who also works with families suffering from the loss of a baby. She described current views on grieving and end-of-life care that includes spiritual assessment and intervention.
Sue quoted Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, who stated, “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”
This view of life and death is vital as we care for others, as well as deal with our own mortality. Nurses are familiar with traditional grief theories about stages of grief, but more recent concepts include an integrative model of curing and healing within dying. Bereavement, palliative care, healing and hope are strands intertwined together for living while dying.
Providing Spiritual Care
Providing spiritual care is vital as people grieve. This helps to bring God’s compassion and hope into their pain and brokenness. Spirituality is a dimension within every person, and people have spiritual needs to find meaning, relatedness, love, forgiveness and hope. These needs are expressed in unique ways during times of loss.
From Gallup and Pew research, we can assume that religious practices may be important to a large number of Americans. Spiritual care is included in the nursing scope of practice. But factors keeping us from providing spiritual care include fear, feelings of incompetence, low priority, or concern about the topic being too intimate (but think of all the “private” things nurses ask patients).
The seminar gave practical help to describe spiritual care and ways to assess spiritual needs. Discussion of a life and death video clip helped participants apply what they were learning during the seminar.
The seminar addressed concerns of nurses who care for grieving people:
- Communication (I don’t know what to say to patients…)
- Education (I don’t know how to care for the family…)
- Support (How can I talk with colleagues about what I am feeling…)
Resources for ongoing learning were also noted:
- An NCF Spiritual Care Card (with preparation for spiritual care, basic assessment questions and interventions) was given to all participants.
A new nurse at the seminar said she would keep the Spiritual Care card with her as a reminder of what to say. Another nurse ordered the guide to give to nurses in her church in a gift packet during Nurses Week.
Accepting Spiritual Care
Caring for the nurse or health professional was integrated in the seminar, a time to receive spiritual care as well as to provide it. Delores (Dee) Huanca, a Faith Community Nurse and mental health educator, spoke on coping strategies to deal with grief throughout life, both personally and professionally:
- Meditate on this scripture verse, focusing on each phrase: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
- Accept dying as part of living and living as part of dying. “Getting our things in order” is an indication of accepting death: advanced directives, wills, or dealing with broken relationships.
- Ask for and accept help. Be realistic about your time and energy. Get support. Take time for play, humor and laughter.
- Know that God is in control and trust him. Spend time with God and let go of things that interfere with your work and living. Do not expect perfection; that belongs only to God.
Pat Moe, Care Ministries Pastor at Hosanna Church, encouraged us to consider our own self-care. She gave examples of how healthcare people positively affected families and prayed for our ministry through health care.
Guiding Truths from the Bible
Biblical truths about living, dying and grief were communicated throughout the seminar, beginning with Isaiah 61:1, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted…
God cares for people and we can be part of the ministry described in Isaiah and throughout the Bible. God’s goodness brings comfort and hope into our suffering and grief.
We can live with that!
by Mary Thompson, RN, MSN, FCN
Former Director of Nurses Christian Fellowship