Critical Care Nurses’ Perceptions of and Experiences With Chaplains: Implications for Nurses’ Role in Providing Spiritual Care

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We explored critical care nurses’ experiences with chaplains and perceptions of spiritual care. This was a qualitative study, using in-depth interviews and focus groups with critical care nurses at an academic medical center. Data were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using inductive coding methods. The study included 31 nurses (19 interviews and 2 focus groups). Participants did not feel completely prepared for spiritual assessments; they felt the urge to consult with spiritual providers predominantly for end-of-life situations. Respondents reflected several factors in the provision of spiritual care to patients and their families, such as patient’s and/or family’s spiritual needs, resources available at an institution, and the nurse’s own religious and/or spiritual beliefs. Nurses’ perceived role of chaplains overlapped what nurses can offer as part of holistic care, such as listening, praying, and counseling. Yet, participants acknowledged they paid more attention to the physical facets of a patient’s illness. Participants noted a need for better system-wide approaches to enhance nurses’ capacity for spiritual care, as well as earlier spiritual assessments of patient and family spiritual needs. Future research should address how integration of the spiritual care providers into the care team can improve spiritual support of patients, families, and clinicians.

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