Teaching and learning about spirituality and spiritual care : a case study investigating nursing students' experiences of spiritual education
There is a professional requirement that nurses should be competent in assessing and providing spiritual care. Yet there is little spiritual education in nursing curricula and even less evaluative research examining the efficacy of students learning about spirituality, particularly in the classroom. This study aimed to explore what understandings, if any, students had of spirituality and evaluate students' learning about spirituality in the classroom setting. This is a small-scale qualitative case study bounded by participants' experiences of a short course in spirituality within a particular context. The students (54) engaged in learning methods throughout the course, some of which were used to provide research data. These research methods were the nominal group technique (NGT), reflective journals, reflective group interviews, and end of course student evaluation questionnaires (SEQ). The nominal group was conducted and analysed according to the technique outlined in Moore (1987); the rich qualitative data from the journals and interviews underwent constant comparative analysis; and the data from the evaluation questionnaires were collated. The major findings from the study were that students did learn about spirituality and spiritual care in the classroom. Students valued learning methods which encouraged reflection and the sharing of ideas. The results from the NGT indicated that students were able to identify a variety of spiritual needs and that some ideas were held in common. Four key themes were derived from constant comparative analysis and interpretation of the qualitative data: (i) Beliefs and values about spirituality and attitudes towards spiritual care, (ii) The language of spirituality and spiritual care, (iii) Telling spiritual stories: Biographical and autobiographical accounts, and (iv) Learning about spirituality and spiritual care. Theme (iv) was also informed by data from the SEQ.