Inviting nursing students to talk about the spiritual needs of patients – and themselves – is a challenge. Recently I gave a presentation on spiritual care to all of the senior nursing students at the University of Illinois. One student responded boldly, “I would rather ask my patients about their bowel movements than about their spiritual needs.”
I was thankful for his honesty. As part of the workshop I led on “Caring for the Spiritual Needs of Our Patients,” students asked each other what gave them strength and what they believed in. One student responded, “I believe in myself. I rely on myself and I also believe in science.”
This student is probably not the only one who puts his hope in himself and in his own ability to get through any situation. I was reminded of the need for these students to have a personal experience with God and to see Jesus’ character reflected in the lives of Christian friends.
We discussed how spiritual needs are foundational in life: the need for love, for hope, for forgiveness, and for meaning and purpose. I asked students to describe a patient they had cared for who had a spiritual need. One student shared that she had taken care of a pastor over the summer who was waiting for an organ transplant. He was very hopeful at the beginning of the summer but, as the months wore on, she could tell that he was losing hope. Thankfully, he was able to have the surgery before it was too late. He later shared with this student how he had really been close to losing all hope. He had a strong belief in God and God’s faithfulness, and yet it was difficult for him to hold on to hope when his circumstances were dire.
One of the nursing interventions that can be used to meet the spiritual need for hope is “Hope Inspiration.” This involves:
- assisting patient and family to identify areas of hope in life
- expand the patient’s repertoire of coping mechanisms
- involve the patient actively in own care
- create an environment that facilitates patient practicing religion, as appropriate
- demonstrate hope by recognizing the patient’s intrinsic worth and viewing the patient’s illness as only one facet of the individual.
She saw first-hand how hope and faith played a part in the pastor's strength, even though at times his situation made hoping much harder.
As I left the classroom at the end of the seminar, I felt like the farmer who scattered seed on different types of soil. I don’t know what each student heard and retained throughout the class, but I shared what I thought would help and challenge them to grow in their own spiritual lives.
I am praying that God will reveal himself to these students in tangible ways and they will realize that “believing in myself” will not last. They need the strength and hope that comes only through journeying each day with Jesus.
--by Renee Lick, Director of NCF Student Ministries