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How nurses can apply spiritual care to improve the daily lives of people with learning disabilities and their families

20 June 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 12



Most UK nursing research into spirituality overlooks its daily application in certain specialties, notably learning disability nursing.


Tz explore spirituality over the lifespans of people with learning disabilities and how spiritual care affects their quality of life. To provide practical examples for nurses on how to apply spiritual care in their daily practice.


A literature review conducted between January 2002 and July 2022) following recommendations from the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA). Thomas and Harden's (2008) approach to thematic synthesis was used to structure 10 full-text articles into three key themes.


The three key themes were: the role of the nurse, the impacts on the individual, and family/carer perspectives.


The nursing role in using spiritual care encompasses care planning an individual's spiritual activities, facilitating time alone, nurturing values such as self-acceptance, building therapeutic relationships, and advocating for progression in existing social structures and legislation.

In medieval Europe, including England and Wales, the role of the nurse was characterised as that of a member of a religious order. It was not until the Crimean War, when Florence Nightingale rose to prominence, that nursing became recognised as a respectable profession for women (Wyatt, 2019). In the 20th century, the nursing profession began to subscribe to post-Enlightenment ideologies. It was considered that religious paradigms were incompatible with health care, and thoughts of the spirit or soul were to be avoided due to their non-empirical nature (Garrett, 2021). Despite this absence of spirituality in nursing and healthcare research, holistic care has grown in influence through the decades. A holistic approach to nursing entails care that recognises the wholeness of a person, addressing their physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs (Thornton, 2019; McCann, 2018).

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