Meaning given to spirituality, religiousness and personal beliefs: explored by a sample of a Norwegian population

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Abstract

Aims and objectives.

The aim of this article is to explore the meanings given to the words ‘spirituality’, ‘religiousness’ and ‘personal beliefs’ by a Norwegian sample of healthy and sick individuals.

Background.

Studies show that a high proportion of nurses do not identify the spiritual needs of their patients, even if the nurses are educated to give care for the whole person, including the spiritual dimension.

Design.

This study used an exploratory qualitative design.

Methods.

Qualitative data generated from six focus groups were collected in southeast Norway. The focus groups were comprised of three groups of health professionals (n = 18) and three groups of patients from different institutions (n = 15).

Results.

The group discussions revealed that the meanings of spirituality, religiousness and personal beliefs were interwoven, and the participants had difficulty in finding a common terminology when expressing their meanings. Many of the participants described the spiritual dimension with feelings of awe and respect. They were dependent on spirituality in order to experience balance in life and cope with life crises.

Conclusion.

The themes and categories identified by the focus group discussion highlights that spirituality ought to be understood as a multilayered dimension. An appreciation of the spiritual dimension and it's implication in nursing may help to increase health and decrease suffering.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Health professionals need to be cognizant of their own sense of spirituality to investigate the spiritual needs among their patients. This study's focus group discussions helped both patients and health professionals to improve their knowledge regarding the meanings given to the spiritual dimension.

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