Important Assumptions About Spiritual Care

Nurses Christian Fellowship believes the following about Spiritual Care: 

  • People are biopsychosocial spiritual beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) for relationship with God (John 3:16). 
  • Nurses are called to care for the whole person—body, mind, spirit. 
  • Spirituality, faith, health, and illness are interconnected, thus spiritual care is critical to patient health.
  • God knows every individual’s deepest needs, including spiritual needs. The Holy Spirit can and wants to work through Christian nurses who are prepared to care spiritually for patients and families.
  • Offering good spiritual care requires knowledge and skill. This includes:
    • Spiritual Growth: Deepening relationship with God, study of the Bible, fellowship with other Christ followers. 
    • Professional Development: Studying spiritual care should be part of every nurse’s ongoing professional development. Just as nurses need to go to nursing school to learn nursing, nurses can learn from spiritual care experts, practitioners, and researchers—in conjunction with God’s guidance—the best ways to offer spiritual care. 
  • Inquiring into a patient’s spirituality can involve screening, history taking, and/or professional spiritual assessment (Fitchett, n. d.; Goree, 2020; Massey, Fitchett, & Roberts, 2004; Murphy & Maki, 2017). All screening, history, and assessment can be ongoing and/or repeated in the process of spiritual care.
    • Spiritual Screen is a basic examination, often completed at admission, to explore for further problems (like taking a pulse or blood pressure). Spiritual screen entails a few questions to elicit basic spiritual/religious preferences and any obvious distress that warrants follow up. Minimal expertise and time are required for this “triage level” of spiritual assessment.  
    • Spiritual History involved collecting a person’s basic spiritual/religious story (like a family medical history or personal health habits). Commonly used tools include FICAHOPE, and other tools. Spiritual history requires a medium level of expertise and time and can be completed by professional nurses or physicians.  
    • Professional Spiritual Assessment is the detailed and invasive process of listening to, interpreting, and evaluating spiritual needs and resources (like an advanced diagnostic test of magnetic resonance imaging or an angiogram). Such assessment requires significant expertise and usually a lot of time. Thus, spiritual assessment if most often completed by a spiritual care expert such as a professional chaplain, minister, or spiritual director. 
  • Spiritual needs can be deeply complex and beyond a nurse’s expertise. If a spiritual care situation exceeds the nurse’s competency, the nurse should seek out and/or refer to a spiritual care expert such as a chaplain, clergy, or trained spiritual director.

Fitchett, G. (n.d.). Assessing spiritual needs in a clinical setting. https://www.rish.ch/mm/Fitchett_-_Keynote_ECRSH14.pdf

Goree, K. J. (2021). Spiritual assessment. In K. L. Mauk, & M. E. Hobus, (Eds.), Nursing as ministry (93-108). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Massey, K., Fitchett, G., & Roberts, P. A. (2004). Assessment and diagnosis in spiritual care. In K. Mauk & N. Schmidt, (Eds.), Spiritual Care in Nursing Practice (pp. 209-242).       Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins.

Murphy, P. E., & Mako, C. (2017, April 30). Using screeners for religious or spiritual struggle: Why, how, what? (Keynote address). National Association of Catholic Chaplains Annual Conference, Santa Ana Pueblo, NM.  https://www.nacc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/SU2-Spiritual-Screening-and-Assessment.pdf