Nurses' Behavioral Responses to Patients' Spiritual Requests in Rural Southeastern North Carolina

Sunday, 17 November 2013: 11:00 AM

Alice W. Matthews, MPH, RN
Medical Sugical/Orthopedics, New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Wilmington, NC

Learning Objective 1: 1)The learner will be able to identify behavioral responses of nurses to patient spiritual requests.

Learning Objective 2: 2)The learner will be able to understand the implications of spiritual care education and organizational mission on individual nursing practice.

Purpose:  The purpose of this qualitative study was to 1) identify the behavioral responses of nurses to patient spiritual requests, 2) assess the perceived barriers for providing spiritual care, and 3) compare nurses’ behavioral responses with demographic characteristics.    

Design:  Through the use of a web-based questionnaire based on Flanagan’s critical incident technique, reports were obtained from a convenience sample of 225 nurses recruited through a large regional medical center in rural southeastern North Carolina.  

Findings:  Six predominant behaviors were identified that nurses might use in the event that a patient expresses a spiritual need:   providing prayer, referring a patient to the chaplain, showing respect for religious and cultural beliefs, providing comfort, encountering barriers, and sharing own faith beliefs.  A chi square analysis that examined differences between participant characteristics and major behavioral factors found that nurses who reported that their nursing programs adequately prepared them to address patient spiritual needs were more likely to pray with patients.  They were also more likely to practice personal spiritual beliefs.  Nurses with baccalaureate or higher degrees were more likely to report incidents that described showing respect for patient spiritual/religious practices. 

Conclusions:  The taxonomy of nursing behavioral responses to patient spiritual needs provides important information for developing tailored education programs, as well as forming a foundation for testing spiritual care educational interventions.

Clinical Relevance:  Identifying behavioral responses of nurses to patient spiritual requests helped move the hospital administrative team forward in developing an organizational culture that would promote the use of spiritual care.