There is a growing interest in spirituality in healthcare and it is perplexing to attempt to define the difference between spirituality and religion as it is often defined differently by everyone. A problem that affects this is the ever-changing world around us and how that affects our spirituality as well as the global society that we presently live in and the cultural effects of that. Healthcare in many places has lost its spirituality and without this, there is little healing. This paper will attempt to determine what the healing hospital might be and how spirituality and religion connect to that.
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Religion is characterized by institutional beliefs and rituals and it is usually noted that most religious people are spiritual but not all spiritual people are religious (Pesut, Fowler, Taylor, et.al., 2008). In a study done by Russinova and Cash (2007), religion was described by 50 patients. Those patients described religion as being organized and involving the community. It is ritualistic in its character and its parishioners are meant to follow those rituals. There is a doctrine and you are somewhat disempowered because you are asked to believe what the church believes,
Some fear is induced as there is the fear of God and the fear of criticism (Koening, George, Titus, 2004). It is prescriptive in the sense that there are rules and it is outside of oneself so it is extrinsic. They felt it was manmade, socially decisive, and judgmental and a healing hospital must be able to find the happy medium as all patients who use it will feel secure without feeling intimidated. Yet through all religion has to do with a higher power it may not be the substance of healing that the hospital is looking for.
The same group of patients also described spirituality as informal and personal as well as intrinsic or coming from within. They thought it was exploratory and provided them with a personal relationship with God or a spirit and made them aware of their own soul. They felt there was the feeling of a Universal life force though none of them could really describe what that was. Continuous, functional, and meaningful were other descriptive words often used. They felt that they were empowered by their spiritual well-being and that it promoted harmony and balance that could not come from other things and most of all, they felt that spirituality promoted healing (Russinova, et.al., 2007). They felt that the times they had been in the hospital, there were spiritual people who just made them feel better by touching their hands and there were others that gave them some fear just by being in the room. They felt that healing came from the soul and there were those that their soul just had a healing spirit. Those of us who might work in a healing hospital need to give spiritual healing in our ways.
Health and Spirituality
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracle, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpretations? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. Healing is for Us.” It was meant that we could participate in healing each other as healing does not mean medication, it is spiritual well-being.
“Health is complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organization, 2007). Many years have gone by in which healthcare defined health within the ramifications of illness. This writer believes the WHO is correct though and health is well-being, not the absence of illness. This well-being helps stave off any illness. In having a hospital as a healing hospital in the world today it will be important to take a step back and realize that there are many intrusions on the healing process (Girdano, 2009). There are few quiet times for our patients in which they can get in touch with their own spirituality as well as those of their caregivers and us as medical people need to find ways to help that happen if we expect our patients to heal.
There are many barriers today that prevent hospitals from being the spiritually healing places they could be. Time is one of those. There are too few nurses and too many patients and the number of tasks has increased so greatly that the time it takes to stop and touch a patient’s hand has disappeared. The change from a hospital as a healing place to a hospital as a business has affected all of us, changing what in our soul is believed to be medicine and what in our jobs is believed to be medicine.
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Spirituality as we previously defined is intrinsic or held within ourselves. Stress, we know can be reduced by many things including exercising more, eating healthier, and talking with friends more. However, the greatest stress reducer is our own spirituality, the belief that there is a greater force than ourselves and that we can let those big things go beyond our control because of it. In the hospital, it may be a really difficult day today but we are empowered by our spirituality to have a better day tomorrow.
We have all begun to realize that our soul, our spirituality, who we are, are connected to what we do and where we are even though many of us are told that what we do is not what we are. When we say “I am a nurse” something inside us comes alive only to be dashed in most hospitals as not what we do. In the healing hospital, this could be different and who we are can be allowable as to what we do. Our spirituality is connected to that soul in such a way that only we can understand what our spirituality means to us. Spirituality transcends religion as we noted before. Studies have also begun to show that people who are spiritual manage to transcend a major illness better than others, including those that are religious and they stay healthier for longer (Pesut, et.al., 2008).
In conclusion, healthcare is trying to define spirituality in a way that makes sense to the care of people. However, it is a confusing and moving thing to diagnose. The comparison becomes more complicated as we apply it to health and the effects of lack of health. We do know, however, that those that are able to hang on to and nourish their spirituality are less stressed and therefore more healthy. Healing comes from finding the nurturing that the soul gives, and the spiritual lifting of their own spirituality and that of the nurse.
Girdano, D.A., Dusek, D.E. & Everly, G.S. (2009). Controlling stress and tension (8th ed.) Person Benjamin Cummings: San Francisco.
Koenig HG, George LK, Titus P. (2004). Religion, spirituality and health in medically ill hospitalized older patients. Geriatrics Society 52(4). 554-62.
Pesut, B., Fowler, M., Taylor, E., Kirkom, S., Savatzky, R., (2008). Conceptualizing spirituality and religion in healthcare. Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Russinova, Z & Cash, D. (2007). Personal perspectives about the meaning of religion and spirituality among person with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal. 30(4). 271-84.