NTI: Spiritual Care in Critical Care Nursing: Judy Crewell, PhD, RN, CNE

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    Spiritual care is utilized in all aspects of nursing, but it is especially essential in critical care nursing where life and death decisions are made daily. However, this does not come easily for all of us. Here are some tips from a recognized expert on the topic.

    NTI:  Spiritual Care in Critical Care Nursing: Judy Crewell, PhD, RN, CNE

    Allnurses.com staff recently attended the AACN NTI Conference in Houston. We were fortunate to interview several well-respected leaders in critical care nursing. One of our interviews was with Judy Crewell, PhD, RN, CNE who is a leader in spiritual care in critical care nursing. Dr. Crewell facilitated a session titled "Spiritual Care Matters in the Care of Critically Ill Patients and Families" in which she discussed the role of the nurse in providing spiritual care and shared strategies on how to provide interventions at the bedside for patients and families.

    In an allnurses interview with her, Judy stated, "Spiritual care has been with us since the beginning of time. It used to be that physicians were also spiritual leaders." Research shows that patients who have religious or spiritual beliefs have better patient outcomes, especially if their spiritual needs are met. As healthcare professionals, it is mandated that we provide for the physical needs of the patient as well as the spiritual needs. In order to do this, we must include a spiritual assessment along with the physical assessment.

    Dr. Crewell recognizes that not all nurses feel comfortable providing spiritual care, however, lack of comfort is not an acceptable reason to not meet the spiritual needs of the patient. The nurse needs to develop a self-awareness of how they feel about providing spiritual care and look for ways in which spiritual needs can be met, either through that nurse or by utilizing another care provider.

    Prayer is often used in hospitals for both patient and staff support and can be quite comforting if used appropriately. Spiritual care must encompass all aspects of religious and spiritual beliefs. Patients and their families are very vulnerable while hospitalized. This is especially true for those in the critical care areas. It's important that nurses take their cues from the patients and their families in assessing spiritual needs and providing spiritual care. In nursing, it is important to remember that spiritual care is about the patient, not the nurse.

    Nursing education has lacked spiritual care information which we often find as we get out into the nursing workforce. Judy stressed the need for incorporating more spiritual care concepts in nursing curriculums.

    Dr. Crewell shared some tips as to what could be done to improve nurse comfort levels with providing effective spiritual care:
    • Obtain support from the religious staff of the facility
    • Look to evidence based practices
    • Collaborate with other nursing staff
    • Don't confuse spiritual care with cultural competency
    • Be mindful of your own bias

    As nurses are the ones who spend the most time with the patients, it is important that they are equipped to address all of the patient's needs, including physical and spiritual.


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