Spiritual Diversity and Nursing

Abstract

Incorporating spiritual care into everyday nursing practice can be intimidating for some nurses. It is easy to get wrapped up in the basics of nursing care and assessment. Making sure a complete and accurate spiritual needs assessment is performed will help to create a nursing plan that will help the patient with the healing process. A patient’s belief system can make a difference in response to illness and treatment. In this paper, three patients of different religious backgrounds were interviewed to help assess their needs from healthcare providers. The patient interviewed had belief systems in Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism. The statements received from these patients were compared with the belief system of Christianity. Diversity is expected when dealing with individuals of different cultures and religions but it may be surprising the similarities that are found.

Spiritual Diversity

In providing health care to patients of diverse spiritual backgrounds, it is important to consider each patient’s spiritual beliefs. Each patient responds to the health care services being provided in accordance with his or her faith. Therefore, understanding the patients’ spiritual profession is necessary for administering health care services. For, example, understanding the patient’s spiritual diversity enables health care providers to determine whether there are special considerations that must be taken into account to aid in the healing process.

In an effort to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role of spirituality in one’s healing, I conducted research on three patients who acted as the core respondents in the study. All the patients selected professed different spiritual beliefs. As a result, I was able to understand their beliefs in relation to their religion. The research took into account three main religions which include Islam, Buddhism and Judaism. Four questions regarding their beliefs on the role of spirituality towards healing were asked to the three respondents selected.

The first patient to be interviewed was M. Karout who is a Muslim. The following is an illustration of some of the questions asked and the answers he provided.

What is your spiritual perspective on healing?

As a Muslim, I strongly believe in the power of prayer as one of the most important elements in one’s healing. However, in case of illness, I would definitely visit the doctor for medical attention.

What do you consider to be the most important element of your spiritual belief that contributes to healing?

In my opinion, prayer is the most important component of healing. However, in case of death, there are special prayers that should be said. I also believe in visiting the doctor in addition to using herbal remedies. When admitted to the hospital, the hospital bed should face Mecca. I do not believe that there are specific meditations for healing.

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your faith and spiritual beliefs that health care providers who profess different faith should observe?

As a Muslim, it is important for the health care providers to respect my culture and beliefs. For example, I would like them to give me an opportunity to be visited by my religious advisors. In addition, they should give me permission to read the Quran.

How do patients view health care providers who are able to let go of their beliefs in the interest of the beliefs and practices of the patient?

I have great respect and appreciation for health care providers who can put their own beliefs aside. I do not have a strong opinion on what beliefs my health care provider should profess. However, I would prefer someone who would give me good care and help me feel better.

In an effort to develop an understanding of Buddhism philosophy, I interviewed a female patient by the name of Tan who is a Buddhist. The following are the responses to the questions asked.

What is your spiritual perspective on healing?

I strongly believe in prayer and meditation to help me in healing. I approach being sick with the idea that it is part of my daily suffering and with prayer and meditation, I can help the doctors to do what needs to be done.

What do you consider to be the most important element of your spiritual belief that contribute to healing?

Buddhists have some rituals which they perfume in case of illness. One of these rituals entails using coins to rub creams starting with the neck, the spine and the ribs. We believe that this draws out the poison causing the illness. As a religion, Buddhists have glass bottles in which candles are placed for a moment and then put on the skin to suck out the poisons. In Cambodia, the monks chew medicine and herbs and spit it on the area that needs healing. However, this is not common in the United States.

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your faith and spiritual beliefs that health care providers who profess different faith should observe?

The most important thing to me is for them to have a high level of understanding and respect. They should not coerce me to accept their views. In addition, I would like to be taken care of by a female health care provider.

How do patients view health care providers who are able to let go of their beliefs in the interest of the beliefs and practices of the patient?

In my opinion, health care providers should not let go of their beliefs. However, they should be in a position to offer good care and respect my beliefs.

The third and final person to interview was a Jewish male by the name of J. Grace.. The following are his responses to the four questions.

What is your spiritual perspective on healing?

In my opinion, I would try all the available alternatives before conventional health care. For example, in case of feeling pain, I would go for massage therapy, then acupuncture before visiting the doctor and then consider surgery as the last resort.

What are the critical components of healing, such as prayer, meditation, belief, etc?

I consider prayer to be the most important component of healing in that it opens my body to healing. I also consider faith which is passed on through hugging, greetings and spending time with the sick to be a core component in one’s healing. “

What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your faith and spiritual beliefs that health care providers who profess different faith should observe?

The most important aspect to me is that they should be able to separate faith from care, that is, they should be able to separate themselves from their prejudices and religious views in administering health care. (J. Grace, 2011).

How do patients view health care providers who are able to let go of their beliefs in the interest of the beliefs and practices of the patient?

I would have absolute faith in the abilities of my health care provider if they were able to put their own beliefs aside for the benefit of their patient.

The role of spiritual healing from a Christian perspective is that of faith and prayer. There is the belief that God will never give you more than you can handle brings strength to every illness. Jesus himself was a true healer and in following his teachings the belief is there that he will help and participate in our own healing. Christians believe in the connection of mind and body, and in order to have physical health, you must also have spiritual health. “Those who are spiritually healthy experience joy, are able to forgive themselves and others, accept hardship and mortality, report and enhanced quality of life, and have a positive sense of physical and emotional well being (Salladay, 2011, p. 106).

The concept of the mind and the body as a whole is also evident in Islamic and Buddhist philosophies towards spiritual healing. When discussing Islam you find that in the Qur’an healing is referred to as spiritual and bodily. “Since Allah is the source of spirit and body, healing afflictions cannot be beyond His control. Piety and faithfulness are necessary qualities to qualify for divine healing” (Imam, 2006, 18). The Buddhist teachings have a strong belief in the body as a whole. They use meditation to help find the link between spiritual and physical well-being. “Buddhism contributes to mental and physical health through encouraging the development of a unified and centered personal approach to our life affairs. It assists the well-being of the body through body-mind synthesis…”(Bloom, n.d., 22). Even in the Jewish belief system, there is a connection between mind and body. It may not show up in the form of meditation and prayer but it does connect spiritual health with physical health. According to Kabbalah, individuals are capable of changing physical, psychological and spiritual vibrations through thoughts (Spiegler, n.d., 11).

Another strong part of the Christian faith that was noted in all the different denominations spoken with was that of prayer. Prayer was mentioned by all three individuals interviewed and is a key component in all the faith systems. There is a belief that with prayer comes the strength to heal and deal with situations that have to be faced on a physical level. Whether the prayers were in the form of meditation, such as Buddhism, or group prayer, which is common in Islam, Christianity and Judaism, it is considered essential to spiritual growth and understanding of faith and belief in God.

One of the other concepts that were clear through all the belief systems discussed is that of the need for understanding and respect for the beliefs and spiritual needs of the individual. Every person interviewed stated that they wanted their needs met with dignity and understanding from their health care providers. Greater respect is held for those providers who are able to understand and put aside their own beliefs in order to provide the care that is in the best interest of the patient. If we as nursing professionals are only able to address the physical needs of our patients then the whole concept of wholeness in inpatient care is shattered. By ignoring the spiritual needs of our patients we cannot fulfill our goal of giving complete compassionate care to the patient (Salladay, 2011). This should be the true goal of all nursing professionals in today’s society.

References

Bloom, A. (n.d.). Buddhism and Healing. 2011, Web.

Imam, Y. O. (2006). Healing in Islam [Formal Paper]. Web.

Salladay, S. A. (2011). Confident Spiritual Care in a Postmodern World. Journal of Christian Nursing, 28(2), 102-108. Web.

Spiegler, V. (n.d.). Healing with Jewish Tradition. 2011. Web.