There be dragons: effects of unexplored religion on nurses’ competence in spiritual care
On ancient maps unexplored lands were simply labeled ‘there be dragons’ indicating the fear that attends the unknown. Despite three decades of theoretical and empirical work on spirituality in nursing, evidence still suggests that nurses do not feel competent to engage in spiritual care. In this paper I propose that one of the reasons for this is a theory-theory gap between religion and spirituality. Generalized anxiety about the role of religion in society has led to under-theorizing in nursing about religious care. As a result, when religion and spirituality overlap at the point of care, nurses are left without the substantive knowledge required for practice. Robust religious theorizing should include thick accounts of lived religion and integrative work that enables nurses to understand commonalities across religions that are relevant to practice. As a starting point to this integrative work, nurses can be introduced to the nature and lexicon of lived religion, religious perspectives on suffering, and religious reasoning that holds meaning and mystery in tension. Such an approach will better prepare them for the realities of practice where the complexities of spirituality and religion come to play.
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