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Drawing on theology in nursing. Dr Janice Clarke Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester. Current theories of nursing and their links to spirituality.

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drawing on theology in nursing

Drawing on theology in nursing

Dr Janice Clarke

Institute of Health and Society,

University of Worcester

current theories of nursing and their links to spirituality
Current theories of nursing and their links to spirituality
  • Some Eastern theology and use of chakras and the idea that religion can be drawn on to build knowledge but not from Islam and only very alternative Christian theology
  • spirituality is about self actualisation and consequently say a lot about the self but nothing about relationship
  • a kind of implicit idea that the three parts are related and interact but no way of actually explaining how it might be
  • Caring - but how? –
  • how this can be created in an ordinary nurse with no interest in spirituality and without a high level of awareness.
  • What about the body and how that interacts with a patients spirituality
  • Little basis in any theory
No mention of body care
  • Based in talk
  • Don’t link to literature on care
  • Not about relationship
  • Embedded in the mechanism of the nursing process
Model of the person with integrated parts

which interpenetrate and influence

each other

  • Caring for the whole person is the starting point of spiritual care.
  • Body - material or physical
  • aspect of our nature
  • Spirit - the breath of God
  • Mind ( in the original module is called
  • Soul -psyche– and includes
  • the mind




Janice Clarke, University of Worcester

what is a person
What is a person

We are of the earth and of the spirit between the high and the low, spiritual and physical


“earthly yet heavenly, … midway between majesty and lowliness; one self-same being, but both spirit and flesh.”

(St. Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 38: 11,in Ware1987:199)

“He is my helper and my enemy, my assistant and my opponent, a protector and a traitor…. If I strike him down I have nothing left by which to acquire virtues. I embrace him. And I turn away from him. What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of this mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? “

(St John Climacus, 1982:186)

“The spiritual joy which comes from the mind into the body, is in no way corrupted by the communion with the body but transforms the body and makes it spiritual”.

(St. Gregory Palamas1983:51,Triads, II: ii 9)

“As the ancient philosophers aptly put it, “the soul is the form of the body”. What you see is, by definition, not matter, but the soul, the person! “

(Clement, O. 1986:56)

This cosmic God reaches out to the whole of his creation and draws it back into union with himself.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar talking about the Areopagite’s vision of Celestial Hierarchy:

“… a holy universe, flowing forth, wave upon wave, from the unfathomable depths of God, whose centre lies always beyond the creature’s reach; his vision of a creation that realizes itself in ever more distant echoes, until it finally ebbs away at the borders of nothingness, yet which is held together, unified, and “brought home”, step by step through the ascending unities of an awestruck love.” (2003:58)

The discourse on spirituality in nursing deliberately avoids terminology which might be construed as religious. Those who use ‘religious’ language to speak of spirituality have been

criticised. Tanyi (2002)

  • Reed (1992) described ideas attached to the concept of spirituality such as ‘ethereal’, ‘supernatural’ or ‘immeasurable’ as ‘conceptual baggage’.
  • McSherry and Draper (1998) criticised Bradshaw (1994), for using religious symbolism in her descriptions of spirituality, saying that the words ‘covenant and pastoral’ ‘romanticise’ the subject.
  • Nurses are exhorted to separate religion and nursing and not to use religious language to describe spirituality.
it is possible, Pals argues, for an outside interpreter to agree with a number of things “asserted or entailed by a believers creed without thereby committing himself to the truth of the believer’s creed” (Pals 1986:28).
Davie (1994:123–124)

cites a Liverpool hospital chaplain, ministering to two

different groups of women in two hospitals, young women

coping with miscarriage, stillbirth and sick babies and older

women with gynaecological cancers. While both groups were

happy to see this chaplain, the younger had no language with

which to communicate their spiritual grief, rage or happiness,

whilst the older women had recourse to half remembered

prayers, and rituals from their youth, which filled a void in


“Post religious language and culture are on the whole extremely impoverished in this respect. … amongst thoroughly secularised children it is sometimes as if there were an awareness of a gap or an incompetence in secular language. Religious terminology seems to slip in by default because it expresses the felt sense of what the child is experiencing “

(Hay & Nye 1998:144).