Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Second Advisor

Loretta B. Johns

Third Advisor

Ruth Abbott


Problem. Nursing professionals acknowledge that (a) spiritual care is part of holistic care, and (b) nursing education about spiritual care of patients is inadequate. Evidence points to the importance of personal faith and spirituality in order for the nurse to more effectively render spiritual care to patients. Enhancing knowledge about how nursing students learn spiritual care can benefit nursing education and, ultimately, patient care. This study explored how students with high faith maturity provided spiritual nursing care to patients.

Method. This study engaged phenomenological methods with a study population selected from two faith-based educational institutions. A total of 187 nursing students within three semesters of graduating completed a brief demographic survey and a 12-item faith maturity scale. From this sample, 62 students who had experienced an intentional spiritual encounter with a patient volunteered to participate in semi-structured interviews. The sample was further refined to those who claimed commitment toChristian faith and scored high on the faith maturity scale, resulting in an interview sample of 16 students from Liberal Arts University and 11 students from Health Sciences College. Data from the interviews were triangulated with written documents describing the schools and their curricula, and with faculty interviews.

Results. Four themes emerged from exploring how life experiences influenced personal spiritual formation in nursing students: Personal spiritual disciplines, relationships, an environment of Christian teaching and growth, and struggle and/or loss. Three patterns of care were evident in the stories the students recounted of how they provided care to patients: Holism, presence, and witness. As the students considered how to become prepared to provide spiritual care to their patients, two areas of enabling were personalfaith and preparation.

Conclusions. Twenty-seven Christian nursing students of high faith maturity recounted descriptive experiences of providing spiritual care to their patients. Results of the study showed that their personal faith was the key influence enabling them to give holistic spiritual care. To equip students to provide spiritual care, nursing educators are offered specific ways to help grow students' personal faith, as well as preparations educators can use to instruct students about specific aspects of spiritual care provision.

Subject Area

Nursing students, Nursing--Religious aspects, Spiritual formation


Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."