AIM: This paper is a report of an analysis of the concept of spiritual crisis.
BACKGROUND: The term spiritual crisis has been used ambiguously in the literature, resulting in lack of clarity. A holistic approach includes spirituality in nursing care of the whole person.
DATA SOURCES: Papers available online between 1998 and 2007 in the CINAHL, Medline and PsycInfo databases were retrieved for analysis. The search engine Google was also used to examine additional references to 'spiritual crisis'.
REVIEW METHODS: Spiritual crisis, spiritual emergency and life crisis were the terms initially used to search each database. The search was expanded to include spirituality to draw more literature into the review.
FINDINGS: Using Walker and Avant's method of concept analysis, a definition of spiritual crisis was identified. Spiritual crisis can be described as a unique form of grieving or loss, marked by a profound questioning of or lack of meaning in life, in which an individual or community reaches a turning point, leading to a significant alteration in the way life is viewed. Possible antecedents include sudden acute illness and loss of important relationships. Potential consequences may include physical and emotional responses.
CONCLUSION: People with terminal illness, depression, and those who are grieving losses may be at special risk of spiritual crisis. The literature suggests an interdisciplinary approach, nurses' self-exploration of spirituality, and refraining from defining spirituality by religious affiliation as part of improving practice.
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