When Our Patients Request to Pray
Cheryl Ann Green, PhD, DNP, RN, LCSW, CNL, FAPA, MAC
Assistant Professor of Nursing, Southern Connecticut State University
Adjunct Professor, University of Bridgeport
Off-Shift Nurse Leader, Yale-New Haven Hospital/ Yale Psychiatric Hospital
Phone: (203) 230-2427
Over the past ten years of clinical practice, I have personally seen a resurgence in requests for patients of all faiths desiring prayer before medical and surgical care, as well as during therapy for treatment of anxiety, grieving, and relational problems. In my work as a licensed clinical social worker and registered nurse, crisis is often the reason people seek spiritual support.
According to Anderson & Worth (1997), “Spirituality refers to the uniquely personal and subjective of a fourth dimension; religion refers to the specific and concrete expression of spirituality” (p. 4). As human beings, our reality is comprised of what we see, how we interact with what we see, and how our surroundings impact us emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. In absence of our natural human existence on Earth, we seek to find understanding of our longevity and brevity of life. Crisis, be it a diagnosis of illness, a death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup, stresses of school or work, our children, friends or spouse experiencing difficulties in their lives, it is complex and at times, seemingly unforgiving.
Our lives, as well of those of the patients we serve, must be open to that which we cannot clearly define, and still seek to qualify and quantify—the spiritual self. Integrating our patients’ spiritual and religious beliefs into their health and mental healthcare (Kahle & Robbins, 2004) is empowering for them and creates a dynamic holistic perspective to complementary care. Potter, Perry, Stockert, and Hall (2013) note that “The relationship between spirituality and healing is not completely understood. However, the individual’s intrinsic spirit seems to be an important factor in healing. Healing often takes place because of believing” (p. 691). It is therefore important for providers to address the spiritual health needs of patients, prayer being one facet. So, the next time a patient requests you to pray with them, be open-minded, and explore your own inner convictions and beliefs. Then, consider this complementary care as a means to further aid your patients in their emotional, physical, and spiritual healing.
Anderson, D.A. & Worthen, D. (1997). Exploring a fourth dimension: Spirituality as a resource for the
couple therapist. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 23, 3-12.
Kahle, P.A. & Robbins, J.M. (2004). The power of spirituality in therapy: Integrating spiritual and religious
beliefs in mental health practice. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Pastoral Press.
Potter, P.A., Perry, A.G., Stockert, P.A., & Hall, A.M. (2013). Fundamentals of nursing (8th ed.). St. Louis,
About the Author
Cheryl Green, PhD, DNP, RN, LCSW, CNL is a nurse, clinical social worker, and clinical Christian counselor. In nursing, Dr. Green has worked in the areas of medical-surgical nursing, legal nurse consulting, psychiatry, community health, medically-complex rehabilitation, and as a nurse educator. As a social worker, she a had private practice working with children, families, and couples, served as a mental health consultant to a private school, provided spiritually-based therapy in a group practice, and provided play therapy and child-centered family work with children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS. She has also worked as a crisis clinician providing on-call psychiatric consultation within a hospital setting.
Dr. Green presently works as a nurse leader at Yale-New Haven Hospital and is an assistant professor in the Department of Nursing at Southern Connecticut State University. Her volunteer work includes: the American Red Cross Disaster Responder team, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as a Rapid Response Team Chaplain.