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Consideration to include spiritual needs of the patient and family into holistic health care highlights important aspects of care such as awareness and understanding of personal spiritual needs of medical providers. This study investigates the Child Life Specialists' understanding of their spiritual journey with reflection on professional practices that promote coping and reduce stress in children and families in medical settings. The Spiritual Insight and Behavioral Scale was created for this study and completed by 451 Child Life professionals. Findings indicated that awareness of one's own spirituality enhances focus on spiritual needs of others; it also validates Child Life professionals belonging among other members of a medical team to be better prepared to address and support diverse spiritual needs of children and families, including spirituality. Implications for educational training are discussed.
Spiritual and religious beliefs play an essential role in the everyday lives of many individuals. People utilize spirituality and religion for direction, meaning, and guidance during life's journey through which the answers to several existential questions can be found. Thus, creating an understanding of the importance of spirituality in individuals' lives and exploring the influence that spiritual beliefs have upon one's own work and practice is the focus of this study.
Whether one believes in scientific evolution, biblical creation, or any combination of myriad possibilities, belief systems are those that guide individuals and should therefore be closely acknowledged by researchers in many academic and professional settings including medicine, q-he Child Life profession and health care are examples of educational settings where spirituality and science walk a close line. Child Life Specialists are members of the interdisciplinary health care team who are responsible for facilitating coping and stress reduction in children and families facing challenges such as medical treatment, traumatic events and/or disability by providing developmentally appropriate, family-centered, culturally sensitive interventions. While health care professionals are trained to address the somatic aspects of an individual's illness or condition, Child Life Specialists are trained to attend to the psychosocial, emotional, spiritual, and familial needs of individuals. Dealing with life-changing health issues, one's spiritual aspect may become the most significant and dominant aspect of one's functioning that requires special sensitivity and attention. Spirituality can be a source of healing and strength for an individual coping with illness or crisis (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 1998) and should be acknowledged as important by the medical team.
The importance of spirituality has been recognized by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHO) which mandates that "spiritual assessment should, at a minimum, determine the patient's denomination, beliefs, and what spiritual practices are important to the patient" (JCAHO, 2005, p. 1) in all health care organizations. Research demonstrated that health care professionals will only be able to develop specific and effective interventions by obtaining improved understanding of patients' diverse spiritual needs (Galek, Flannelly, Vane, & Galek, 2005). However, spiritual needs continue to be poorly addressed within the arena of human caring, especially with regard to educational training in cultural and spiritual sensitivity.
Review of Literature
A review of literature provided a multitude of definitions for spirituality (Benson, 1997; Cavendish, Luise, Russo, Mitzeliotis, Bauer, & Bajo, 2004; Gilchrist, 1992; Reed, 1992; Sessanna, 2008) and described the notion of spirituality as a universal human phenomenon with an assumption of the wholeness of individuals and their connectedness to a higher being, which integrates the quest for meaning and purpose in life. There are three ways in which this relatedness may be experienced: trans-personally (referring to a sense of relatedness to a power greater than self, God, or the unseen), intrapersonally (as a connectedness within oneself), and inter-personally (in the context of the natural environment and others). It is through these diverse patterns of connectedness, in which one passes beyond the structures of everyday existence to provide the ordinary with the extraordinary, that spirituality is manifested (Reed, 1992; Sessanna, 2008).
Acknowledging these variations allows open-mindedness to this topic knowing that there are many ways in which one can experience spirituality. For example, spirituality may be experienced when meditating, praying, or singing; while others may be moved by nature, reading scripture or other sacred literature, exercising, listening to music, etc. (Krucoff, et al., 2001; O'Connor, Pronk, & Tan, 2005). This broad notion views spirituality as an individual's life philosophy. Benson (1997) and Sessanna (2008), identified spirituality as referring to one's own experiences, ideals, or beliefs that are expressed through prayers, meditation, and the use of positive affirmations to obtain emancipation from fears and worries as well as finding purpose and meaning in life. Fowler defines the word "faith" as a universal quality of knowing and relating oneself to the larger whole, stating that every person has a need to have faith in something, which can vary from a concept of the universal whole, oneself, or a God figure. He clearly notes that in his use of the word "faith" he is not exclusively alluding to religious faith (Fowler, 1991).
Spirituality versus Religiosity