Administering a two-stage spiritual assessment in healthcare settings: a necessary component of ethical and effective care

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This article delineates rationales for administering a spiritual assessment as a universal component of care.


The notion that nurses should identify and address patients' spiritual needs remains controversial, particularly in the UK where criticisms derived from secularization theory have appeared in the literature.


To respond to these criticisms and to develop rationales supportive of spiritual assessment, I draw upon scholarship from a variety of disciplines including social work, sociology, and medicine.

Key issues

Five rationales are posited to support the concept of universal spiritual assessments: professional ethics, patient autonomy, knowledge of patients' worldviews, the identification of spiritual assets, and accrediting and governmental requirements. Criticisms based on secularization theory are discussed and analysed.


A two-stage spiritual assessment – consisting of a brief preliminary assessment followed, if necessary, by a comprehensive assessment – provides a mechanism to efficiently identify patients' spiritual needs.

Implications for nursing management

As key members of the healthcare team, nurse managers are ideally situated to ensure that all patients receive a spiritual assessment as a routine component of care. In so doing, they help ensure the provision of ethical and effective care to the diverse spiritual groups that will continue to populate the UK for the foreseeable future.

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