Identity and Resistance: Why spiritual care needs enemies

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Aims. This paper explores certain key critiques of spirituality-in-nursing as they have been offered by people outside of the discipline. It argues that nurses have not taken seriously enough the recent criticism of the nature and role of spirituality in nursing. Not to listen to the 'enemies' of spirituality-in-nursing is to risk stagnation and a drift into obscurity.

Background. The area of spirituality has become a growing field of interest for nurses and has produced a burgeoning body of research literature. Yet, whilst much has been written about the positive aspects of spirituality, nurses have offered almost no critique of the ways in which spirituality and spiritual care are understood, despite the fact that there are clearly certain key issues that require robust critique and thoughtful reflection. Almost all of the major criticisms of spirituality-in-nursing have come from people outside of the discipline of nursing. The paper argues that nurses need to listen carefully to the criticisms of spirituality and spiritual care offered by the 'enemies' of spiritual care in nursing. When listened to constructively, they highlight issues that are vital for the development and forward movement of this important area of nursing practice.

Methods. Literature review and critical reflection on current critiques of spirituality in nursing practice.

Conclusions. The paper concludes that nurses need to begin to develop spirituality as a specific field of enquiry with its own bodies of knowledge, methodologies, assumptions and core disciplines.

Relevance to clinical practice. In listening to and taking seriously its 'enemies', nursing has the opportunity to establish spirituality as an important, creative and vibrant aspect of nursing practice that has the capacity to grow and respond constructively to its 'enemies', in ways that make whole-person-care a real possibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-928
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jun 2006
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


  • health
  • nursing
  • quality of life
  • religion
  • spirituality
  • well being
  • clinical-nursing 13


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