Developing Spirituality in the Curriculum: Worldviews, Intrapersonal Connectedness, Interpersonal Connectedness

By Pesut, Barbara | Nursing Education Perspectives, November-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Developing Spirituality in the Curriculum: Worldviews, Intrapersonal Connectedness, Interpersonal Connectedness


Pesut, Barbara, Nursing Education Perspectives


ABSTRACT Although many nursing education programs are searching for ways to incorporate spirituality into the curriculum, how this should be done remains a point of debate. A number of models and teaching strategies have been posed in the literature. This article explores how definitions of spirituality can inform the integration of this important concept into the curriculum. Three key themes from definitions of spirituality in the literature are discussed: worldviews, intrapersonal connectedness, and interpersonal connectedness. Strategies are presented for facilitating discussions around worldviews and for fostering a climate that promotes intra- and interpersonal connectedness for students and faculty.

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With the growing interest in the spiritual dimension noted in North America in recent years, there has been a struggle to integrate spirituality into the nursing curriculum, This trend leads to important questions: How should spirituality be addressed in the nursing curricula? Who is qualified to teach spirituality? Can spirituality be taught, or is it a characteristic inherent in some students and faculty?

Many nursing education programs, challenged to address spirituality in the curriculum, are grappling with the nature of the concept itself. Some educational programs include spirituality under the psychosocial domain and treat it as they would other psychosocial needs (1). This approach, however, does not adequately address the spiritual domain. Piles argues that "spiritual help is different from emotional support even though spiritual distress is often made manifest by the emotions. WHEREAS THE LATTER CONCERNS ITSELF WITH THE RELATIONSHIP OF A PERSON TO HIMSELF AND HIS ENVIRONMENT, THE FORMER CONCERNS A PERSON'S RELATIONSHIP TO A HIGHER BEING" (2, P. 40).

One debate in the nursing education literature concerns how students learn to engage in spiritual care. Bradshaw believes that such learning is caught rather than taught. Developing characteristics and values that would enable the nurse to care for patients in a spirit of love is not taught in a classroom but is learned by "following in the example of his or her teacher, by watching what the teacher does, how the teacher behaves and, most importantly, what the teacher is as a person" (3, p. 57).

Ross (4) and Narayanasamy (5), on the other hand, provide models fro' spiritual care education that use the nursing process as the basis for meeting the spiritual needs of patients. These models assume that spiritual nursing care can be taught much like other aspects of the curriculum.

Fulton conducted a literature review on spirituality in nursing education and suggests that individuals who have a deeper sense of their own spirituality are better equipped to deal with the spiritual situations of others. Fulton supports the use of strategies that allow students to explore and develop their own spirituality and outlines a number of strategies for educators to use to begin the process (1). For Gallia, such strategies include enabling students to find balance in their lives, creating a learning environment that fosters community, and allowing faculty to find balance, nurturing, and support far themselves (6). Teaching strategies would include reflective journaling, assignments around the literature on spirituality, facilitated dialogue among students, and faith-based clinical placements such as parish nursing (7). Helping students explore the spiritual dimensions of their lives would be accomplished through student-centered and experiential methods of education (1,8).

Defining Spirituality How we define spirituality has the potential to inform what we teach and how we teach it. Most importantly, defining spirituality can lead to the development of a curricular climate that promotes the development of spirituality for students, faculty, and clients.

In a pluralistic society, arriving at a common definition of spirituality presents a challenge. …

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