Care matters: spiritual care by nurses from feminist perspectives
The importance of spiritual care by nurses for health and recovery has become increasingly topical in the last decade. However, there is little research into why nurses should give spiritual care. Whilst bodily caring has always been associated with nurses and nursing, spiritual care has been seen as the concern of religious ministers. The steady decline of people belonging to conventional religions in secular British society is paralleled by an upsurge of interest in spiritualities. But why nurses should give spiritual care is unclear. This qualitative, interdisciplinary study aims to explore why nurses are asked to give spiritual care to patients by considering whether there is something amiss with nursing care that would be remedied by the addition of spiritual care. To investigate this, spiritualities and bodily caring are considered in tension with each other. By using feminist standpoint epistemological approaches I propose to: a) allow the everyday experiences of nurses in giving nursing care to be expressed; b) demonstrate that themes of nursing care as comforting, compassionate caring challenge claims that the addition of spiritual care is necessary; c) show that nurses conform to the perverse body/spirit dualisms of dominant patriarchal institutions and cultural norms in describing bodily nursing care as spiritual and d) present living models of nurses and nursing care as meaningful materialist world views. Material for the study was obtained in semi-structured, one-to-one conversational interviews with eighteen experienced practising nurses. Stories of nursing care were interpreted and analysed within nursing theories of spiritual care as either imperative or integral to nursing care. Body/spirit critiques in feminist informed theologies provided a further theoretical framework for analysis. The thesis describes the everyday distress that nurses experience. The feminist design created a vehicle for fresh constructs of care by nurses not previously identified in studies of spiritual care by nurses. The findings provide an evidence base for practising nurses to validate their own skills; for managers and policy makers in planning support for nurses to give nursing care, as well as for chaplains and others to listen and respond to care matters.