School of Nursing professor receives grant for educating nurses about spiritual caregiving
Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, PhD, RN
Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, PhD, RN, associate professor at LLU School of Nursing, received funding for a two-year project titled “‘What Should I Say?’: Educating Nurses to Provide Healing Responses to Patients’ Spiritual Concerns.” This project is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, which finances projects exploring the creative interface between science and religion.
The $174,219 grant, which began in February of this year, allows Dr. Taylor to develop and evaluate an educational curriculum that will teach nurses and other health care professionals about how to respond to patients’ expressions of spiritual suffering. The outcome of the project will be a self-study workbook with a supplemental DVD.
Dr. Taylor’s rationale for this project comes from her own experiences and questions as well as those of some of her students. “When a patient or a family member says, ‘Why did God leave me?’ or ‘What should I do with my life now?’ or ‘There’s no reason to live anymore’ or even ‘I wish I could be kind like you, nurse,’ how should the clinician respond?” Dr. Taylor asks. “This is a project designed to answer my own question ‘what should I say?’”
As a nurse researcher, Dr. Taylor has spent 15 years studying spiritual responses to illness. With this project, Dr. Taylor not only investigates techniques for one aspect of spiritual care, but also some methods for teaching this to nurses.
“During the past couple of decades, nurses have increasingly valued this notion of spiritual care,” she says. “We’ve even begun to research it, but the research thus far leaves a lot left to learn.”
Although current nursing programs include spiritual care education, they do not specifically address how to offer appropriate verbal responses to patients’ expressions of spiritual distress, doubt, and dismay.
“We have a lot of evidence saying spiritual well-being is linked with physical and overall well-being,” she adds. “We’ve got that piece. But we don’t have the piece of ‘how do we promote spiritual well-being?’ Because nursing is a scientific, evidence-based profession, nursing therapeutics need to be backed up with valid, scientific evidence.”
During the first year of the project, Dr. Taylor will be researching and developing the curriculum. Experts from various disciplines such as chaplaincy, psychology, and spiritual direction will be convened to contribute to and critique this curriculum.
Once the information is gathered, Dr. Taylor will develop a workbook for nurses to study independently. The workbook will consist of text as well as exercises and will include a DVD with illustrative vignettes.
After testing the curriculum, year two of the project will involve collecting data from 300 student and practicing nurse participants who volunteer to complete the curriculum and several instruments to be used for pre- and post-testing. Participants will be compensated $100 each. How the participants score on the instruments before and after they complete the curriculum will inform the nurse educators about how helpful such a method is for teaching spiritual care. These data will also identify what factors contribute to successful learning.
After the evaluation phase of this project is complete, the workbook and DVD will be submitted for publication.
“Once the curriculum is published and available to students and clinicians, it has the potential to transform the way nurses and other health care professionals talk with patients,” Dr. Taylor notes.
Although the School of Nursing undoubtedly will require all of its students to complete the curriculum, this project’s outcome will be useful to a much wider audience of health care professionals.
“Ultimately, I hope that this work will improve patients’ spiritual and overall health,” dreams Dr. Taylor. “Because when we clinicians provide insightful, caring responses to spiritual suffering, that is when healing begins.”