Particularizing spirituality in points of tension: enriching the discourse

Nursing Inquiry 16 (4):337-346 (2009)
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Abstract

The tremendous growth in nursing literature about spirituality has garnered proportionately little critique. Part of the reason may be that the broad generalizing claims typical of this literature have not been sufficiently explicated so that their particular implications for a practice discipline could be evaluated. Further, conceptualizations that attempt to encompass all possible views are difficult to challenge outside of a particular location. However, once one assumes a particular location in relation to spirituality, then the question becomes how one resolves the tension between what are essentially theological or philosophical commitments and professional commitments. In this study, we discuss the tension between these perspectives using the idea of a responsible nursing response to spiritual pluralism. We then problematize three claims about spirituality in nursing discourse based upon our location as scholars influenced by Christian theological understandings: (i) the claim that all individuals are spiritual; (ii) the claim that human spirituality can be assessed and evaluated; and (iii) the claim that spirituality is a proper domain of nursing’s concern and intervention. We conclude by suggesting that the widely shared values of social justice, compassion and human dignity may well serve as a grounding for the critique of spiritual discourses in nursing across particularized positions.

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