The meaning of spirituality: a literature review

J Adv Nurs. 1997 Dec;26(6):1183-8.


This paper presents a literature review in relation to the meaning of spirituality. It is proposed that meeting the spiritual needs of patients is a fundamental part of providing holistic nursing care, but that the assessment and meeting of those needs is impeded by inadequate definitions and conceptual frameworks. It should not be assumed that spirituality is either synonymous, or coterminous, with religion, and it is suggested that to adopt this restrictive view is unhelpful in the provision of individualized care. Reflection on the literature reveals that the self, others and 'God' provide the key elements within a definition of spirituality, and that other emerging themes namely meaning, hope, relatedness/connectedness, beliefs/belief systems and expressions of spirituality, can be articulated in the context of those three key elements. In particular, it is proposed that the nature of 'God' may take many forms and, essentially, is whatever an individual takes to be of highest value in his/her life. It is suggested that the themes emerging from the literature can be utilized as a framework to give practitioners and researchers a direction for future exploration of the concept of spirituality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Holistic Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Religion*