As part of International Nurses Day 2021, we are focusing on the influence spirituality research by Professor Linda Ross, of the University of South Wales (USW), has had on the training of nurses and midwives.
In partnership with experts from across Europe, in a project which looked at how spiritual care can be taught, Professor Ross co-led the EPICC Project, which has impacted on the training of nurses, midwives and other health professionals in around 20 countries. In Wales spiritual care is now embedded in the training of all nurses and midwives.
A model, developed by Professor Ross and colleague Professor Wilf McSherry, is helping student nurses and midwives to provide spiritual care by asking two questions of patients - ‘What is important to you? How can I help?’. This is so the health professionals can understand more about their patients’ spiritual needs, rather than just their physical requirements.
USW student midwife, 48-year-old mum-of-three Alison Strong, from Cwmbran, is one of those who has been trained, as part of the curriculum, to understand and use the spiritual care model when supporting new mums and their families. She explained how learning about spiritual care has been of use to her.
"We’ve done a few sessions with Linda over the three years I’ve been training, and it’s good that spiritual care is a key part of the midwifery course now.
"An important part of it is to understand that it’s not just about religion, which people can assume when you talk about spiritual care. It’s to do with the person as a whole, understanding the person, listening to the person.
"Linda’s sessions make you stop and think about things what you can do for the patients, ask yourself why you have done certain things, and why you responded in the way you did. It’s been a fabulous way to get more a detailed understanding of yourself and the people you’re caring for.
"Being a little bit older and having had three children of my own, I probably had a bit more understanding of people, of the challenges new mums are going through, and also the challenges that their partners and families are going through.
"The two questions are a great guide to how to get people to open up and talk, as some of them, both the mums and the partners, can be really scared and not know what they can ask, or what they can do. They are looking to you for care, advice, support – and the response to this gives a practical use for Linda’s training.
"On a personal note, I’ve supported young couples who are the same ages as my eldest son, who’s 20. I always think that I want to give them the care that I would want him and his partner to get, and the 2Q-SAM questions are a great way to find out exactly how I can help them.
"I think it gives you more empathy with people, and you understand that they can be scared and need support.
"An added benefit has been the training we’ve received on other services that are available at hospital, such as the chaplaincy. If we’re only focusing on the physical care of patients, we probably wouldn’t know what other services are available to support them.
"With this extra training, we learn a lot more about what’s available in and around healthcare settings, so we can guide patients if they want to know more about them. "