How Christian nurses converse with patients about spirituality

J Clin Nurs. 2014 Oct;23(19-20):2886-95. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12596. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


Aims and objectives: To describe the experience of conversing with clients to provide spiritual care from the perspective of Christian nurses identified as exemplary spiritual caregivers. More specifically, findings presented here describe the goals and strategies of these nurses when conversing with patients about spirituality.

Background: Although verbal communication is pivotal to most spiritual care interventions recognised in the nursing literature, there is scant empirical evidence to inform such spiritual care. There is evidence, however, that many nurses have discomfort and difficulty with conversations about spirituality.

Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive, qualitative design framed by phenomenology.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 southern California registered nurses working in varied clinical settings. Data were coded and thematically analysed by three researchers who established equivalency. Methods to support the trustworthiness of the findings were employed.

Results: Themes providing structure to the description of how nurses converse with patients about spirituality included assessing and establishing connection, overt introductions of spirituality, finding spiritual commonality, self-disclosure, spiritual encouragement, spiritual advice or religious teaching, and prayer. Requisite to any spiritual care conversation, however, was 'allowing them (patients) to talk'. Informants tread 'gently and softly' in approaching spiritual discourse, assessing for any patient resistance, and not pushing further if any was met.

Conclusion: Findings illustrate compassionate nursing with specifiable goals and strategies for conversations about spirituality; they also raise questions about how nurse religious beliefs are to ethically inform these conversations.

Relevance to clinical practice: The Invitation, Connection, Attentive care, Reciprocity mnemonic is offered as a means for nurses to remember essentials for communication with patients about spirituality.

Keywords: communication; converse/conversing; nurse; patient; spiritual care; spirituality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • California
  • Christianity*
  • Communication*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Process*
  • Spirituality*
  • Young Adult