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Spirituality in Nursing

Spiritual Thinking

Published October 13, 2016 9:01 AM by Mark Darby
A spiritual writer once said that God is paradox.

In healthcare, spirituality is the response to the demands made by multiple points of view. This is especially true when these points of view conflict.

When faced with a point of view different than our own, fear is a natural reaction. Since fear cannot deal with complexity, our fearful reaction causes us to stereotype the other person. Stereotype stops any constructive conversation.

Think of an emergency department nurse who reads "back pain, needs meds" as the reason for the patient's visit. These words cause an internal, unconscious, and immediate self-dialogue. It is as if the nurse has two voices in her head speaking to one another. One is named Fear and the other is Stereotype. After reading the reason for the patient's visit, the two voices engage in this type of dialogue:

Fear: "'Back pain, needs meds.' I hate these kinds of people."

Stereotype: "I bet she's a drug seeker, just like that other patient who tore into you that one time."

Fear: "Do you really think she's like that guy? I can't handle someone like that today."

Stereotype: "You better rip her a new one before she even gets a word out."

Fear: "Good idea."

Keep in mind—this dialogue happens in an instant, on the way to the room, before the nurse even sees the patient.

The reason for such self-dialogue is paradox. Patients come to the ED looking for drugs. We, as healthcare professionals, don't prescribe things that hurt patients. Therein lies the paradox—a patient wants something and we don't want to give it. This paradox causes Fear and Stereotype to shut down communication.

The reality is only SOME patients come to the ED looking for drugs. Without spirituality, our thinking does not allow room for SOME. It is all or nothing.

Spirituality is the only way to break this cycle. With spirituality, our fear loses control and we can enter the room allowing the patient to be an individual.

This fact becomes extremely important when we think of how many paradoxes there are in healthcare. People refuse immunizations when we say they should get them. People smoke when we tell them not to. People refuse chemo when we think it will cure them. And on and on. We haven't even mentioned paradoxical views of nurses and doctors, nurses and administrators, or even those between ourselves.

In all these cases we have a choice—do we respond to such situations with spirituality or with fear and stereotype?

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