Teaching spiritual care in a public institution: legal implications, standards of practice, and ethical obligations

J Nurs Educ. 2007 Jan;46(1):33-8. doi: 10.3928/01484834-20070101-07.


This article reviews the status of teaching spiritual care in a public institution of higher education. The resurgence of interest in spiritual care across the United States has spurred interest and expanded theories of spirituality within the nursing profession. Nursing education rose to the challenge of teaching spiritual care theories and interventions to students, despite the absence of policy to guide educators. However, differences between public and private educational institutions have led to variations in the teaching of spiritual care. In addition to the legal implications stemming from the need for separation of church and state, nurses must also be aware of their ethical obligations in order to teach spiritual care concepts appropriately. The accrediting agencies for nursing education programs and hospitals, as well as state licensure boards, foster high expectations for nurses to provide spiritual care. A call for research and policy development to guide nurse educators is also addressed in this article.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation / organization & administration
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate* / ethics
  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate* / organization & administration
  • Faculty, Nursing / organization & administration
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Moral Obligations
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Theory
  • Organizational Policy
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Principle-Based Ethics
  • Public Sector* / ethics
  • Public Sector* / organization & administration
  • Religion
  • Spirituality*
  • Students, Nursing / psychology
  • Symbolism
  • Teaching / ethics
  • Teaching / organization & administration
  • United States
  • Universities* / ethics
  • Universities* / organization & administration