Nurse Religiosity and the Provision of Spiritual Care

Monday, 9 November 2015

Iris Mamier, PhD, MSN, RN1
Carla Gober, PhD, RN2
Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, PhD, RN3
Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, PhD, MSN, RN1
(1)School of Nursing, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA, USA
(2)School of Religion, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda University, CA, USA
(3)Journal of Christian Nursing, Wichita, KS, USA


Many nurses are religious. Indeed, religious motivations often prompt individuals to be nurses. Likewise, religious beliefs provide nurses with cognitive structures that comfort them as they continually witness patients’ suffering. Professional ethics codes, however, admonish nurses to never proselytize their religion while caring for patients. Indeed, the power differential in the clinician-patient relationship and non-ecclesiastical role of the nurse support the argument that clinicians should not impose their religious beliefs at the bedside.

Nurses are increasingly expected to screen for spiritual distress and intervene to promote spiritual well-being in clinical settings. There is, however also the possibility for this boundary between a nurse’s personal religiosity and professional care to become blurred. Lack of professional skills in the area of spiritual care may lead to misunderstandings how to navigate the communication with a patient in the area of spirituality in a way that is wholesome and warrants ethical boundaries.

It is unrealistic to assume that a nurse can—or should—leave personal beliefs in a locker when at work. Thus, it is important to consider how a nurse’s personal spiritual and religious beliefs affect nursing care, rather than if they do.


This poster will present findings from a larger study investigating how nurse spirituality and religiosity (S/R) affects spiritual care. In particular, data about nurse opinions regarding the appropriateness of initiating S/R discourse, S/R self-disclosure, and prayer will be presented. Demographic and work-related factors associated with these opinions will also be explored to determine if there is a profile for nurses who are apt to initiate such discourse or avoid such discourse while providing patient care.


This study involves a cross-sectional design allowing for a convenience sample of over 600 Journal of Christian Nursing readers and website visitors who will complete an online survey. Data for this poster will be responses to an investigator-designed opinion survey and “Information About You” questionnaire that solicits data about a variety of demographic and work-related variables. These quantitative data will be analyzed using measures of central tendency, appropriate bivariate analyses to determine associations, and regression analyses to identify factors that predict initiators and avoiders of S/R discourse with patients.


In spite of the prevailing call for nurses to conduct spiritual assessments and support patient spiritual well-being, there is inadequate discussion about the ethics of such care. Findings can be used to guide administrators and educators—and ultimately, nurse clinicians, as findings will provide evidence about how personal religiosity affects patient care—for better and/or for worse. This evidence will need to shape curricula and policy so that patient and nurse religious beliefs can be safely supported in a pluralistic society.