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Spirituality in Nursing

Spirituality and Health Choices

Published August 11, 2016 8:51 AM by Mark Darby
Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman are two economists devoted to answering the question, "Why do people make the choices they do?" They delineated several cognitive biases, such as framing effect, which attempted to explain a person's non-rational behavior. Tversky and Kahneman's theory was a giant leap forward over older theories which saw people as machine-like.

For example, Tversky and Kahneman posited that when people are satisfied with their health, they are risk aversive. People are more frightened of losing something and will not take risks even if there is a great probability for gain. This explains why a smoker who has no known health problems continues to smoke. The smoker believes any change is a risk and will not take that risk unless their health satisfaction changes. This makes intuitive sense. I have seen many smokers finally quit after a spot has been found on their lungs.

However, many people change behaviors without a change in health status. A 2013 Gallup poll said that only 5% of smokers who quit did so for health reasons. 48% who successfully quit did so, because they just decided it was time (Newport, 2013). Where did the impulse come from and how did the impulse to make such a change sustain itself?

I now make this assertionsuch change comes about because of spirituality. By definition, God or the higher power provides motivation from a source that is above physical and mental sources. Spirituality is not just something we do on church on Sunday but a source of motivation.

Others may say we just don't understand enough YET to explain such changes. I would offer a different question. Suppose spirituality is true, completely true. There is some form of power greater than ourselves that affects health behaviors. Then it is completely possible that some people stopped smoking because of spirituality and not for any other reason. If this is true, then how can we use it as health professionals to make health changes?

I know the first step. We have to talk to our patients about spirituality. We must be unafraid to explore this topic and advise patients to use spirituality and meditation when we give them care. I would like to hear from you about this. How do you use spirituality in your practice?



Newport, F (2013) Most U.S. Smokers Want to Quit, Have Tried Multiple Times, Gallup. Retrieved on Aug 3, 2016 from:   


I've been an RN for 40 years of active practice- hospital settings to include med-surg, OB, psychiatry, intermediate care, float RN, and now a busy Peds office. I earned a certificate in Parish Nursing in 2001. When I worked at a Catholic Hospital- RN's were encouraged to pray with their pt.'s IF the pt. wanted this. I recall that my Aids pt.'s were very open to prayer . I learned in my Parish Nurse courses äbout the definition of  "Health". Health is not only  being physically "well"...a person can be Spiritually healthy and be on their  deathbed. Our spiritual health is important and often overlooked. I also learned that one of the root causes of addiction issues is a spiritual  void. 12 step programs such as AA , NA and Celebrate Recovery address this issue to promote recovery. Years ago, my son had surgery in a Catholic Hospital. I was very thankful when one of the nuns offered to pray with us. I've always asked pt.s if they want to see the hospital chaplain or pastoral care. They need to know this is a choice they have. When I retire-I hope to volunteer as a Parish Nurse and visit the sick and pray with them.

Ruth Deitz, RN - Staff RN Peds office August 31, 2016 10:52 PM
Columbia MD

Good question spirituality in the nursing spectrum is very beneficial as connecting on a mutual basis for peace or inner frameworks. Core values prayer across a continuum of care reaches the greater depths

When shared person to person or individuality in rn yoga & meditation setting or in music meditations

Ms carol Anaski- Figurski , Independent RN & rev - RN BSN rev , Self employed part time August 30, 2016 9:39 PM
Oswego IL

Spirituality is part of why I became a healthcare provider and it is an integral part of my practice. The hospital Chaplin where I worked as a therapist and a registered nurse developed a spiritual care nurse program first for nurses. Later the program included anyone in the hospital that wanted to take part. As far as we knew it was the first program of its kind in the country. I was invited to take part in the program. After the training I became part of the first Spiritual Resource Team at our hospital. I used it in working with patients and in educating others such as when I was precepting student nurses and respiratory therapists. “ meddling where you should not be.” This kind of thought pattern comes from lack of understanding the difference between Spirituality (the purpose for living) and religion. Though the two may be practiced to enhance one or the other they are two different aspects of our driving force. One need not be religious to be spiritual.  I have continued to develop spiritual education so that I can more effectively connect with those for whom I care. If we cannot connect spiritually with our client/patient then we cannot help them use this window of opportunity to heal (in comparison the curing).  The client may have surgery to remove the gall bladder but they miss the opportunity to heal if no one addresses their spiritual needs with them and they never feel whole as a result.  It takes both the curing process and the healing process if we are truly going to successfully help lift and promote health. Thank you for bringing this important topic to light.

Ann, Resp Ther & RN - August 30, 2016 3:38 PM
Tampa FL

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