We are told that the very essence of good nursing is to help a person attain or maintain wholeness in every dimension of their being. 'Holism' has become the buzz word of the nineties, and nurses are frequently exhorted to care for the whole person. A new wave of terminology has evolved around this concept, and now in nursing theory you'll sometimes find a person described as a biopsychosocial unit! Is this a new direction or focus for nursing, or are we simply revisiting something we have always known to be important?
The nursing profession has traditionally viewed persons holistically, even though the term itself was not introduced into the nursing literature until the1980s by Rogers, Parse, Newman and others. In fact it would have been hard to find a nurse in any era who saw only the physical aspect of care as that which defines nursing. FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE, who brought to nursing not only her traditional Christian values but also some very 'modern' nursing values such as autonomy and professionalism, was a firm believer in holistic care. She claimed, "The needs of the spirit are as critical to health as those individual organs which make up the body". We've all observed that a physical condition can affect the mind and spirit. We're also aware that when a person is hurting emotionally or spiritually, all sorts of physical ailments may be manifested. What has changed is that we're now giving more attention and time to those other less tangible dimensions of a person's need.
The Nature of Spirituality
Spirituality has been defined in numerous ways. These include: a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself; a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures; and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values. It's the way you find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in your life. Although spirituality is often associated with religious life, many believe that personal spirituality can be developed outside of religion. Acts of compassion and selflessness, altruism, and the experience of inner peace are all characteristics of spirituality. Many Americans are becoming interested in the role of spirituality in their health and health care. This may be because of dissatisfaction with the impersonal nature of our current medical system, and the realization that medical science does not have answers to every question about health and wellness. In most healing traditions and through generations of healers in the early beginnings of Western medicine, concerns of the body and spirit were intertwined. But with the coming of the scientific revolution and the enlightenment, these considerations were removed from the medical system. Today, however, a growing number of studies reveal that spirituality may play a bigger role in the healing process than the medical community had previously thought.
Spiritual practices tend to improve coping skills and social support, foster feelings of optimism and hope, promote healthy behavior, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and encourage a sense of relaxation. By alleviating stressful feelings and promoting healing ones, spirituality can positively influence immune, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), hormonal, and nervous systems. An example of a religion that promotes a healthy lifestyle is Seventh Day Adventists. Those who follow this religion, a particularly healthy population, are instructed by their Church not to consume alcohol, eat pork, or smoke tobacco. In a 10-year study of Seventh Day Adventists in the Netherlands, researchers found that Adventist men lived 8.9 years longer than the national average, and Adventist women lived 3.6 years longer. For both men and women, the chance of dying from cancer or heart disease was 60 - 66% less, respectively, than the national average. Again, the health benefits of religion and spirituality do...