Pragmatism & Empathy in Mental Health Nurses

Research Paper Title

Mental health nurses’ understandings and experiences of providing care for the spiritual needs of service users: A qualitative study.

Background

Mental health nurses have a professional obligation to attend to service users’ spiritual needs, but little is known about specific issues related to provision of care for spiritual need faced by mental health nurses or how nurses understand this aspect of care and deliver it in practice.

To explore mental health nurses’ ́understandings of spiritual need and their experiences of delivering this care for service users.

Methods

A qualitative study was conducted in one NHS mental health service. Interviews were undertaken with seventeen mental health nurses practising in a variety of areas.

Results

Four themes were generated from thematic analysis of data in the template style:

  1. Expressing personal perspectives on spirituality;
  2. Expressing perspectives on spirituality as a nursing professional;
  3. Nursing spiritually; and
  4. Permeating anxiety (integrative).

Conclusions

Participants had complex understandings of spiritual need and evident anxieties in relation to this area of care.

Two different approaches to nursing spiritually are characterised as:

  • Pragmatic (concerned with procedural aspects of care); and
  • Spiritually empathetic.

Mental health nurses were uncertain about the acceptability of attention to spiritual issues as part of care and anxious about distinguishing between symptoms of mental ill health and spiritual needs.

Educational experiences need to emphasise both pragmatic and empathetic approaches, and work needs to be organised to support good practice.

Reference

Elliot, R., Wattis, J., Chirema, K. & Brooks, J. (2020) Mental health nurses’ understandings and experiences of providing care for the spiritual needs of service users: A qualitative study. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 27(2), pp.162-171. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12560. Epub 2019 Sep 16.

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