Spirituality in Healthcare

Holistic Nursing is defined as “all nursing practice that has healing the whole person as its goal” (American Holistic Nurses’ Association [AHNA], 1998). Florence Nightingale, who is considered to be the founder of Holistic Nursing, taught nurses to focus on the principles of holism: unity, wellness and the interrelationship of human beings and their environment (AHNA, 2020). Holistic Nursing is not merely something we do. It is also an attitude, a philosophy and a way of being that requires nurses to integrate self-care, self-responsibility, spirituality, and reflection in their lives. This often leads the nurse to greater awareness of the interconnectedness of self, others, nature, spirit and relationship with the global community (AHNA, 2020).

I know that the term “mind-body-spirit” is used a lot in the holistic world and I do believe that in our health care system, we have body down really well, mind-we are making progress but still have a lot of work to do and spirit? Well…. spirit hasn’t really been confronted. I think part of that is because there are many many beliefs as to what “Spirit” even means. So, in school for the spirit section we learned about different cultural practices and, actually, in the past few years, there has been a major emphasis on learning and respecting the different cultures we encounter every day as providers. We did not dive into what a spirit is, how it works, and how to care for it.

This part, the spirit part…this is where I was different from my colleagues. I’ve always had a fundamental, innate knowledge that I am a spirit having a human experience. Having this perspective allowed me to think outside of the science-we-learn-in-school box. I’ve been able to see how the thoughts we think, the things (and people) we surround ourselves with and how we treat our bodies (our homes), can nourish or damage our spirits. Imagine having to try and explain that not all things can be explained by science to some of my colleagues. To be honest, I have been hesitant to even share my stance on a lot things that I see go on in healthcare because I’m definitely the black sheep on this. I know I am not alone, however, because more and more people are seeking these kinds of beliefs in their own healthcare. I mean, I work at a holistic clinic where people truly come from all over because we have an understanding that is not the norm in medicine. You know, I heard this phrase the other day and I finally was able to see in words how I have felt my whole life about being in health care and also being a spirit having a human experience. The phrase:

Science is spirituality seen. Spirituality is unseen science. -unknown

There is so much more to our world than what we can quantify or qualify or sum up with some statistics. We also need to have an understanding that there are things that we just don’t know yet and proceed accordingly. And, just because we don’t know yet doesn’t mean its not real or that it doesn’t exist- and so as a collective, we dance around the subject in health care. I do get some pretty funny expressions in my exam room when I ask my new patients if there are any cultural or spiritual considerations when caring for them, their reactions lead me to believe that they have never been asked that by a provider before. I truly feel that this needs to change. The spirit-soul is the absolute center of our being, if our spirit is hurting than the health of the other pieces (mind & body) cannot fall nicely into place. 

Imagine that your yearly well check included a run down of all things, spirit included. What would that look like? Do you think your provider would have a better understanding of you? Do you think they would be able to tailor your care better to you? Do you think that there would be a deeper level of appreciation and respect for one another? I sure do. Our health is so personal and by not addressing everything included, I feel like we are never completely healed.

What do you think? Do you think spirituality should have more focus in medicine?

In good health,

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Ahna.org. (2020). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.ahna.org/

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