Spirituality and Spiritual Care in the Deployed Australian Military Nursing Context: A Hermeneutic of Understanding

Author: Andrew Ormsby

Ormsby, Andrew, 2014 Spirituality and Spiritual Care in the Deployed Australian Military Nursing Context: A Hermeneutic of Understanding, Flinders University, School of Nursing & Midwifery

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Operational deployments pose unique challenges for military nurses in delivering spiritually directed care. Long absences from home, austere conditions, arduous work hours and the risk of disease, injury and death all contribute to the complex and unique nature of deployed military nursing. This thesis examines how Australian military nurses experience spirituality and spiritual nursing care on deployed military operations. Despite an increasing body of literature on spirituality and spiritual care in a variety of acute, chronic and palliative care nursing settings there has been little research identified that examines the application spiritual care in the context of deployed military operations. The research was undertaken to address an identified gap in the nursing literature and improve the understanding of spirituality within a unique nursing practice context Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten Australian military nurses on their experiences of spirituality and spiritual care on deployed military operations. Gadamer's (1976/2004) philosophical hermeneutics provided the underpinning philosophical approach to this research and acknowledges that understanding is an interpretive act that finds its expression in language and dialogue. Analysis revealed five main themes within the data that provided the foundation for a new model of spiritual care. The themes comprised: -The military nurse - identified the unique nature of military service and its effect on the provision of spiritual care; - Deployment - the defining characteristic of military nursing that presents challenges to spiritual care and spiritual resilience; - Family - the nature of the military family was revealed through parent and sibling like relationships that support the spiritual needs of its members; - Spirituality - understanding spirituality is central to the provision of targeted and meaningful spiritual care; - Spiritual care - is most effective when it is accepting, tolerant, respectful and trusting. Spiritual care may be directed to patients, peers or nurses on deployment. The new model of spiritual care will be explored through the phases of military operations. Each stage of deployment presents different demands on the spiritual needs of military personnel on operations. The findings suggest that improving spiritual resilience pre-deployment may protect against the long-term mental health sequelae of deployment, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Keywords: Spirituality,Spiritual care,Military,Nursing,Military nursing,Deployment,Family,Gadamer,Philosophical Hermeneutics

Subject: Nursing thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2014
School: School of Nursing & Midwifery
Supervisor: Associate Professor Ann Harrington