A ground-breaking new book seeks to improve patient care by increasing consciousness of spirituality

Professor Melanie Rogers, University of Huddersfield has written a groundbreaking new book about improving patient care through an increased awareness of the importance of spirituality for health and social care professionals.

Stories of Hope: Spiritual Dimensions of Advanced Practice Nursing – Stories of Hope describes how nurses can integrate spirituality into their work. Even a small act of kindness such as asking patients about their pets, family or work, can create connection and enhance the well-being of patients in stressful times.

The book draws upon on Professor Rogers personal experiences as an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (APN), and cases studies from all over the world from Advanced Practice Nurses to help clinicians recognise how simple it is to incorporate spirituality into their practice.

Many people associate spirituality with religion when asked what spirituality is. They are two distinct concepts that share certain similarities. One example is that a person’s faith might be in conflict with their spirituality. However, spirituality is much more extensive in regards to what gives each of us hope and meaning. For some, it could be a pet, or work or relationships that give hope and meaning.”

Professor Melanie Rogers, University of Huddersfield

Professor Rogers says that COVID-19 sheds the light on the feeling of isolation felt by a lot of people in society, especially those with a disability and how they deal with it.

She says that each of us plays a part in connecting with others. “I would like to remind people, as social health workers and health professionals that we are all responsible for an important role to play in connecting with people in need.” We may not be the only person with whom a patient has contact, so we need to make sure that every contact is meaningful.

Her innovative teaching style led to Professor Rogers named as a National Teaching Fellow for excellence in higher education, with a focus on advanced practice and spiritualty.

Since her early 20s, her pursuit of spirituality has been a long-standing passion. She established the Spirituality and Compassion special interests group at the University almost twenty years ago. The group has written extensively on spirituality-related topics and has conducted numerous research projects. The new book is based on her research with a network of international contacts who share their experiences of spirituality in practice.

She continues, “Recently, a colleague of my gave me an excellent example of how religion helped a person during the early stages the pandemic.” My colleague arranged for my patient’s wife and daughter to meet him at the car park in full PPE. He was very upset because he hadn’t seen his family for months.

It might not seem like much, but he did say to my friend that ‘in all my time as an inpatient I’ve never had anyone inquired about my condition’. This simple statement gave him hope and helped him to recover. It’s difficult to quantify assess, but for this patient it gave him the strength to continue his recovery.”

Another example of spirituality is “a cancer patient who asks, “Why me?” What can I do to get through this?

“These existential questions are a regular topic in the clinical practice. The Spirituality and Compassion Special Interest Group has just completed research on mental health professionals’ and service users’ perceptions of spirituality. They discuss the importance of spirituality. The participants to the study acknowledged that spirituality might not be integrated into their treatment. Service users, however, pointed out that spirituality is rarely integrated into their care.

“The book contains 13 stories showcasing how APNs interact with their patients. These stories are extremely powerful because they demonstrate the power of spirituality and how crucial that human connection is.”

One problem that Professor Rogers has encountered throughout her career is the issue of staff not having the time to offer the patient a sense of comfort or be able to comprehend their needs when ensuring that the medical needs of the patient are addressed.

“Targets must be met,” but I became an ophthalmologist in 1989, and the ethos at the time was that there was not enough time to speak to patients.

“My primary approach to patient care has always been getting to get to know my patients, establishing relationships with them as human beings and spending time with them , even when you are performing a task. The stories I have received from patients throughout my career have led me to realise how important spirituality is in holistic care.

“Spirituality is vital for patients as it is linked to what gives them hope and meaning. Even if we are caring for someone who is dying, we aren’t able to make them not die but we can give them dignity in death. You can bring joy and meaning to their lives, such as ensuring that they are surrounded by loved ones or ensuring they are comfortable.

Professor Rogers book draws upon case studies from as far afield as China and Eswatini in addition to her own experiences. Her research will continue to investigate spirituality in the future of international research projects. “We recognize that spirituality can be difficult to define, and practitioners often struggle to integrate into their practice. To help clinicians with this, we have developed Spiritually Co0mpetent practice as an empathetic engagement with the entire person as an individual human being in ways that provide them with an understanding of their purpose and reason. If appropriate, they will be connecting or reconnecting with a community that gives them an overall sense of wellbeing as well as addressing their suffering and developing coping strategies to enhance their lives.

“This involves the practitioner accepting the person’s values and beliefs, no matter if they are religious in foundation or not and practising with cultural competence.”

Content Source:

Gemma Wilson

Gemma is a journalism graduate with keen interest in covering business news – specifically startups. She has as a keen eye for technologies and has predicted quite a few successful startups over the last couple of years.

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