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Nurses And The Spiritual Need

There's been a lot of talk recently about delivering quality and innovation in patient care, and calls for more consistent compassion in the NHS. In celebration and appreciation of the healing role nurses play, here are some thoughts on the benefits of a quality-delivering innovation which can be implemented immediately by anyone.

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Is It Time To Make Time For Spiritual Care?

What do prayer, unconditional love, forgiveness, life's meaning and purpose, and spiritual practice have in common?

They are five "Spiritual Concepts Western Medicine Must Embrace" according to Karen Wyatt MD writing on the "allnurses" website.

Perhaps not surprisingly, in the comments section a number of detractors are energised by the presence of the word "must" in the article's title.

Nevertheless, a number of studies point to health benefits from such "spiritual concepts". Furthermore, there's a trend of embracing the importance of patient spirituality in the UK and US healthcare systems.

A couple of years ago, for instance, the UK's Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conducted an online survey of over 4,000 nurses to establish the attitudes of its members towards spirituality and the provision of spiritual care.

The research, thought to be the largest study of its type in the UK, found more than 95 per cent of nurses felt it was their job to identify the spiritual needs of patients. In addition, nearly 80 per cent called for their training to include spirituality and spiritual care. These results led the RCN to produce a special pocket guide on the subject. It quotes one member saying: "Spiritual care is a fundamental part of nursing currently much neglected through ignorance and misunderstanding."

Award-winning columnist Professor Stephen Wright, has devoted much of his life to practising and articulating what he regards as the core qualities of good nursing, regularly pointing out how a spiritual maturity in a nurse benefits the patient.

He told the Nursing Standard: "If nursing is anything it is an expression of heartfelt compassion for the wellbeing of another human being. It is heart-centred work.

"When we are at our best, when we are at our most mature - okay in ourselves, fully clear-eyed and present - we become the sacred space around which, through which, by which the patient is helped to become more whole and healthy themselves."

He added: "Soul-centred environments produce soul-centered nurses, which produce better patient care. It's that simple."

It is not only professional nurses and other clinicians who can benefit from offering and receiving spiritual support. If we want to nurture health in ourselves and others I, like many, have found that "prayer, unconditional love, forgiveness, meaning and spiritual practice" can indeed play a substantial part.

These were all significant factors in freedom I gained from a recurrent medical condition three decades ago that coincided with seeing it was possible to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you", as Jesus put it.

When I "practised" that unconditional love by letting go of bitterness towards some people I had very good reason to resent, sinusitis I'd suffered for years ceased and it has never returned.

It can sometimes seem as if everything conspires to prevent us consciously connecting with our spiritual source. Daily demands - from watering the plants and walking the dog to our work and watching world news - clamour for attention, crowding out the space we need to dig deeper into all-important spiritual concepts.

It's never too soon to take a stand against the tendency of the mundane to monopolise our attention. By creating that space we can harness the power of listening for the sort of inspiration that refreshes, renews and restores.

A healthier, happier experience can sometimes be just a changed thought away.

Tony Lobl is a Christian Science practitioner