“Perhaps no scriptural theme so well models the spiritual posture of nursing practice ass the Old Testament depiction of Moses and the burning bush. In the biblical narrative God reminded Moses that, when he stood before the Lord, the ground beneath his feet was holy. For it is her, in the act of serving a brother and sister in need, that the nurse truly encounters God.” (p. 1) Mary Elizabeth O’Brien in Spirituality in Nursing:Standing on Holy Ground opening statement sets the stage for the examination of nursing practice in relation to the nurses spirituality in caring for patients, participation in providing holistic care, and the nurse’s role as a healer. O’Brien shares the results of formal and informal observations to provide guidelines for meeting the spiritual needs for the mentally and chronically ill, despair and dying, children and families and others in the diverse practice settings of nursing care.
Quite a few years back, while I reviewing books and articles written by experts, I discovered O’Brien’s Spiritual Assessment Scale (SAS). In my experience there are two-broad categories of spiritual assessment tools: brief and used with patients/clients (FICA, SPIRIT, HOPE, etc); and multidimensional assessments or scales that examine the complex dimensions of spirituality. O’Brien’s SAS captures the multidimensional aspects of spiritual health through the Christian paradigm of a relationship with God: Personal Faith, Religious Practice, and Spiritual Contentment. Since SAS can be used for research and statistical analysis, the scoring is a 5-point Likert scale ranging from “Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree”. Here is an example of an assessment question for each category:
Personal Faith: “I receive strength and comfort from my spiritual beliefs.”
Religious Practice: “My relationship with God is strengthened by personal prayer.”
Spiritual Contentment: “I feel that I have lost God’s love.”
I also want to mention that O’Brien has given permission for NCFI to use the SAS in The Art and Science of Spiritual Care. The scale is used as a self-assessment for examining the participants own spiritual health. Knowing one’s self and caring for one’s spiritual health is an important part of nursing practice and essential to providing spiritual care.
Spiritual Care is not an “add on” or “alternative/complementary” to nursing practice. This is especially true for Christians. O’Brien invites nurses welcome nurses to stand on holy ground and encounter God through our acts of service in nursing.