Nursing and midwifery students' perceptions of spirituality, spiritual care, and spiritual care competency: A prospective, longitudinal, correlational European study

Nurse Educ Today. 2018 Aug:67:64-71. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 May 9.


Background: Nurses and midwives care for people at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives, so it is essential that they have the skills to give care which is compassionate, dignified, holistic and person-centred. Holistic care includes spiritual care which is concerned with helping people whose beliefs, values and sense of meaning, purpose and connection is challenged by birth, illness or death. Spiritual care is expected of nurses/midwives but they feel least prepared for this part of their role. How nursing and midwifery students can be prepared for spiritual care is the focus of this study.

Objectives: 1. To describe undergraduate nursing and midwifery student's perceptions of spirituality/spiritual care, their perceived competence in giving spiritual care and how these perceptions change over time. 2. To explore factors contributing to development of spiritual care competency.

Methods: Prospective, longitudinal, multinational, correlational survey design. A convenience sample of 2193 undergraduate nursing and midwifery students (69% response rate, dropping to 33%) enrolled at 21 universities in eight countries completed questionnaires capturing demographic data (purpose designed questionnaire) and measuring perception of spirituality/spiritual care (SSCRS), spiritual care competency (SCCS), spiritual wellbeing (JAREL) and spiritual attitude and involvement (SAIL) on 4 occasions (start of course n = 2193, year 2 n = 1182, year 3 n = 736, end of course n = 595) between 2011 and 2015. Data were analysed using descriptive, bivariate and multivariate analyses as appropriate.

Results: Perceived competency increased significantly over the course of students' study which they attributed to caring for patients, events in their own lives and teaching/discussion in university. Two factors were significantly correlated with perceived spiritual care competency: perception of spirituality/spiritual care, where a broad view was preferable, and personal spirituality, where high spiritual wellbeing (JAREL) and spiritual attitude and involvement (SAIL) scores were preferable.

Conclusions: We have provided the first international evidence that perceived spiritual care competence is developed in undergraduate nursing and midwifery students and that students' perceptions of spirituality and personal spirituality contribute to that development. Implications for teaching and learning and student selection are discussed. The study is limited by attrition which is common in longitudinal research.

Keywords: Midwifery education; Nurse education; Spiritual care; Spiritual care competency; Spiritual care education; Spirituality.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Nursing, Baccalaureate
  • Europe
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Midwifery / economics*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spirituality*
  • Students, Nursing / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Young Adult