Posted by & filed under Healing Environments for the Body, Mind, and Spirit, Holistic and Integrative Health, Spirituality, Health, and Healing, Wellness.

Interview from on November 29, 2011 by Eileen Beal, M.A., Editorial Consultant (Healthcare and Aging issues)

Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, has been a nurse for 30 years, is board certified in holistic nursing and is a nationally recognized teacher/expert on the role spirituality plays in providing compassionate care to patients and clients. She is the co-founder of ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, offering nationally accredited certificate programs in spirituality.

Recently she spoke with about what spiritual care is, what to look for in “good” programs and career opportunities for nurses who want to use aspects of spiritual care to further their careers.

What is spiritual care?

Spiritual care focuses on wholeness, supporting the patient’s or client’s integrity and their personal search for meaning. Nurses providing spiritual care see nursing as an integration of the physical and spiritual aspects of care that affirms the worth of the person — up to and including the point of death.

When is it appropriate for a nurse to provide spiritual care/support? And when is it not?

At its core, nursing is a very spiritual profession, so I think it’s always appropriate, with one exception. If the nurse isn’t comfortable with it –not educated about it, doesn’t understand the elements of it — then it may be better to use other spiritual-care providers as resources.

How do nurses benefit from providing spiritual care?

Speaking from personal experience, it’s more satisfying to provide spiritual care. Because there is physical, emotional and social coordination of care, it’s easier to provide, especially for the scared patient or the patient’s who’s in an unfamiliar environment. It affirms [the nurse’s] personal growth. It reaffirms the importance of healing as an ongoing process. It makes you more aware of what you are doing, more “intent,” more focused. And more humble.

You have been teaching and writing about spiritual care for over a decade. What do you think a good spiritual care program should cover and include?

Most importantly, there should be discussion of what spirituality is and the types of spiritual care that can be provided — for children and aging adults — and how to provide [the care] and the rituals that might be involved. And it needs to cover the intersection of spiritual care, culture and health. That means looking at the different forms of spiritual assessment, for both the patient and the nurse; the interventions that can be used, especially in the healthcare environment; spiritual care at the end of life, especially how spirituality and grieving intersect; and the role nutrition plays in spirituality.

Who is the “average” student in the Spirituality, Health and Healing Program you’ve created?

There is no average student. It’s nurses and social workers, hospice administrators and physical therapists, ministers and massage therapists, even lay people. But the characteristic they all have is that they are very open to connecting to something greater than themselves. And serving others is very important to them.

From your experience and the feedback you get from students, what spiritual therapies seem to help patients the most?

Age and physical status play roles in what works. And it depends on what “speaks” to the person, too. But probably first and foremost it’s “being present,” coming to the encounter with compassion, respect and intentionality.

Other therapies that seem to provide the kind of support and connection patients’ are seeking include prayer and support in whatever spiritual practices they have; touch therapy [i.e. healing touch, reiki, etc.]; pet therapy; being allowed to enjoy nature; and music and art therapy. Humor is important, too.

It’s obvious that nurses with additional training or certification in spiritual care can “move” into pain management or hospice/end-of-life nursing. What other nursing “niches” might they also fill?

Parish nursing is definitely an option. Pediatrics — where you are working with both frightened kids and parents –is another. So are geriatrics and disability care. In both, patients are dealing with a lot of loss issues: lost health, lost independence, lost faculties, lost friends and family.

But there’s also nursing education and health coaching, a growing field because it’s using spiritual practices, such as meditation and self-care. And they can move into things like aromatherapy and massage therapy; energy healing; therapeutic touch and healing touch; and fitness and nutrition. There’s a new field, called spiritual nutrition, to help [clients and patients] figure out what their food issues are and why they are eating what they are eating.

Posted at 09:12AM Nov 29, 2011 in Specialties on

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