Fairfield University School of Nursing wins $5,000 grant to integrate spirituality into geriatric nursing curriculum and bring international expert to speak at University


The John J. Barcklow Foundation has awarded Fairfield University's School of Nursing $5,000 to consider ways of integrating spirituality into its geriatric nursing curriculum.

Sister Mary Elizabeth O'Brien, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., of the Catholic University of America, will deliver a free lecture on that topic on Tuesday, Dec. 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the School of Nursing Auditorium at Fairfield University. The lecture is open to the public.

Spirituality can be an essential aspect of care for older adults with medical problems, particularly those in long-term care situations, said Meredith Wallace, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of nursing at Fairfield University. However, as a secular society we often shun those needs, Dr. Wallace said.

"We're in a culture that is afraid to address patients' spiritual needs because they may be in conflict with our own," Dr. Wallace said, noting that Fairfield's Jesuit mission makes it even more important that the school address the issue.

The grant project will design and implement a clinical rotation within Fairfield University's current geriatric course for the spring of 2005, with a substantial emphasis on spirituality. Ten selected students and faculty members will be educated in faith-based nursing care through consultation with nursing experts specializing in this area. Low-income patients in one faith-based nursing home will be selected as recipients of this specialized care.

Including spirituality in nursing care may involve facilitating relationships between patients and their pastors, rabbis, etc.; praying with patients; escorting them to religious services; watching a televised service; or responding in other ways to their spiritual needs, Dr. Wallace said.

The grant is also funding Sr. O'Brien's visit. An internationally renowned expert on spirituality and nursing, she is the author of many books and articles on the topic, including: "Nurse's Calling: A Christian Spirituality for Caring for the Sick," "Spirituality in Nursing: Standing on Holy Ground," "Parish Nursing: HealthCare Ministry within the Church," and "Care in Nursing: The Spirituality of Compassionate Caregiving."

The John J. Barcklow Foundation is a robust, full-service non-profit support organization that provides a wide range of services and products to promote compassion and quality of life for the elderly.

"We are grateful to the foundation for supporting this important initiative," said Jeanne Novotny, Ph.D, dean of the School of Nursing at Fairfield University. "As nurses, it is our vocation to meet all of the care requirements of our patients. Integrating spirituality into the nursing curriculum will help our nurses respond to those needs in our patients and further the Jesuit mission of our school."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 22, 2004

Vol. 37, No. 109