This chapter reviews research and theory linking religion and health. It presents number of reasons why nurses should appreciate the role of religion as they provide health care. Social scientists describe facets of religion with typologies. The growing body of evidence linking religious belief with health care decision making describes the influence of beliefs on varied decisions, from those related to pregnancy and genetic testing to cancer and HIV treatment. Furthermore, a health-related event may have religious implications. Nurses have many reasons for recognizing patient religiosity. These include the fact that religion is prevalent, that some religious practices have health-related implications, and that some health-related events have religious implications for adherents of some religions, and professional mandates. Religion serves many functions, from social cohesion to intrapsychic comfort. When religion lacks personal spirituality, it becomes harmful.
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Faith community nurses (FCNs) establish connections with parishioners, colleagues, other faith communities, agencies, universities, and other organizations. Collaboration is one of the core competencies of advanced practice nursing. Nurses and other health care providers who are members of the faith community can also create barriers to collaboration if they do not clearly understand the FCN’s role. FCNs provide counseling, expert guidance, and coaching to parishioners about a broad range of health- and illness-related issues. Health counseling was defined as spiritual and psychosocial support. Prior to consulting with others, a FCN is required by both professional standards and the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to have the patient’s permission. The key connection for the FCN is the local or regional health department. Home health care services may be provided by the health department and/or nonprofit visiting nurses associations, and by proprietary home care agencies.
Like many Protestant Christians, Baptists believe in a Trinitarian God who is customarily known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptists vary greatly in their understanding of the meaning one can attribute to disease and illness. Because of Baptist roots in Calvinist teachings, there is a doctrinal thread that views suffering as an inevitable consequence of the adverse effect of human sinful behavior on the natural world over the centuries. Occasionally, Baptist families of a patient receiving artificial life support measures will ask hospital staff to prolong those treatments to allow God the time to create such a miracle. Baptist rituals after death can involve a memorial service, a funeral, a graveside service, or any combination of these options. Nurses and other clinicians should feel free to consult the chaplain or the pastor from a local Baptist church if spiritual needs arise.
Paganism or Neo-Paganism refers to a grouping of disparate religions that share some common attributes. Modern Paganism is largely theistic in nature, although it would be incorrect to say that all Pagans are theistic. Some Pagans view Western medicine and particularly modern pharmaceuticals with suspicion and prefer to avoid taking medications when possible if herbal remedies are available. Although there are no prescribed or proscribed lifestyle practices, individual Pagans may engage in variety of health-promoting practices based on their personal understanding of their spiritual path. Some of these include vegetarianism or veganism, meditation, yoga, Reiki, and dietary supplementation. While some hospital chaplains may try to support Pagan patients, most Pagans are extremely uncomfortable working with clergy of mainstream religions. Nurses could be able to provide spiritual support when needed and requested if they identify various Pagan groups in their locality who might be willing to be on-call for Pagan patients.
Roman Catholicism is the continuation of Christianity practiced in Western Europe from the first through the sixteenth centuries. Catholics experience God chiefly through prayer, sacramental worship, reading of the Bible or other spiritual texts, meditation, and charitable deeds. Community worship is an important aspect of living the Catholic faith. Roman Catholics believe that mind, body, and spirit comprise a unity. Thus, ‘health’ exists when the different facets of the self are in balance and harmony. Physical and psychological health, as they are understood by modern medicine, are important elements in this harmony. Most parishes provide training programs for lay persons who are specially commissioned to visit and minister to the sick, especially by bringing them Holy Communion. Nurses can plan patients’ schedules not only to allow time for Holy Communion but also time to meditate in silence for a brief time afterward.
This chapter focuses on a disaster that resulted in international cooperation at a time of political conflict. The vastness of the destruction and the number of persons who remained under the rubble shook the world’s public opinion; for the first time, a natural disaster emergency became an event of political significance in the field of international relations. Local responses to the earthquake augmented external assistance. Because the tsunami rendered the Messina harbor unusable, Italian Royal Navy torpedo boats could not immediately be used for helping the population. After the initial rescue work, the priority became disease control and vaccination of the entire population of southern Italy. Many nurses volunteered to help the survivors. Despite the difficulties of transferring people to the disaster area, volunteer teams consisting of nurses, doctors, engineers, technicians, workers, priests, and teachers provided their assistance to survivors in the earthquake zone.
Digital communications may either diminish or support caring. This chapter presents communication approaches that have been shown to convey digital caring. A study completed in 2016 uncovered elements of caring online communication embedded within results from six previous studies aimed at identifying specific activities that elicited and supported caring in online classrooms. When caring communication elements from each of the six studies were analyzed together, a consistent pattern of digital world caring communication became apparent. This chapter presents examples appropriate to use in a variety of settings such as communication among colleagues in professional environments and communication between nurses and clients. Electronic-digital communication evokes and invites a new awareness, an awakening, to the reality that whatever thoughts and responses we hold in our minds and consciousness, and even in our hearts, can affect the entire Universal Field-for better or for worse-for self as well as others.
When mothers have high-risk pregnancies and require antepartum hospitalization, this period offers ample opportunities to partner with the mother. Health care professionals can take advantage of these opportunities to initiate a patient- and family-centered partnership that will extend to the care of the family’s newborn. Antenatal consults with the neonatologist are common when a mother has a high-risk pregnancy and a likely neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) admission of a preterm or ill infant. The neonatologist and obstetrician should offer the opportunity for repeated discussions and information sharing about the pregnancy and possibility of a preterm birth. Nurses can play an important role by offering emotional support and clarification. In addition to communication with the neonatologist, mothers may value ongoing communication with a NICU nurse. Whereas the neonatologist offers specific medical information, the NICU nurse offers a connection to the baby’s care.
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Communicating With and Supporting Parents in Palliative Care, Withdrawal of Support, and Bereavement
The opportunity to develop a partnership with families sometimes can occur antenatally when a devastating or life-limiting fetal diagnosis is discovered. Informing parents about the expected or actual death of a baby can be particularly challenging for staff. Staff and physicians, who may lack the tools and language to guide these conversations, need support and education to provide effective, empathetic communication. As in antenatal palliative care planning, the family’s decisions and desires must be elicited and respected. When a baby is dying, the nurses must not independently decide to baptize the baby without discussing with parents what they want if anything for religious support. The goal of family-centered care is to partner with families to improve outcomes. When a baby’s life cannot be saved, this partnership continues to offer emotional support and guidance during the bereavement process.
Global health as a specialty area, encompassing local and international health inequities, is becoming an increasingly defined area of work, for nurses and others. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are targets in a world affected by known challenges that include rising noncommunicable diseases, global urbanization, aging populations, income inequality, resource constraints, and social strife leading to forced population migration. An evolution of approaches has occurred in “global health” work from (often) a single-disease or intervention focus to appreciation of the interplay between living species and ecosystems. It is now more fully appreciated that people cannot mortgage progress in human health at the expense of planetary-level systems that sustain life. However, it is increasingly clear that beyond the development focus of the SDGs, people need action now that includes strengthening health systems as well as advocating for changes to address ecosystem support.