'You never come back the same': The challenge of spiritual care in a deployed military nursing context

Andrew Ormsby, Ann Harrington, Sally Borbasi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Aims and objectives: To explore the experience of spirituality and spiritual care by military nurses on deployed operations. Background: Despite an increasing body of research addressing spirituality in nursing care in a variety of clinical settings, the deployed military nursing context remains poorly understood. Design: A qualitative, philosophical hermeneutic design. Method: Ten Australian military nurses were interviewed about their experiences of spirituality and spiritual care while on deployed operations. Analyses were performed using a phenomenological method informed by philosophical hermeneutics. Results: The participants perceived that they had an important role in the provision of spiritual care in the absence of family on deployed operations. However, the nurse also needed to care for their own spiritual needs. The results suggested that spirituality and spiritual care may provide positive benefits in protecting against the long-term psychological, emotional and spiritual impacts of military service on deployed operations. Conclusions: Military nurses need to understand the factors that influence spiritual care delivery in their practice setting. Nurses need to be cognizant of the importance of spiritual care in the deployed military context, not only for their patients and colleagues, but also for themselves. Spirituality is argued as a protective factor against the challenges and consequences often associated with deployment. Well-developed spiritual resilience may assist in ensuring that military personnel return home emotionally, psychologically and spiritually ‘fit’. Relevance for clinical practice: To provide effective spiritual nursing care to deployed military populations, the nurse needs to understand the complex military practice environment, the personal and individual nature of spiritual expressions and their own spiritual care requirements. Meaningful spiritual care aids resilience against the psychological, emotional and spiritual dangers of deployment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1351-1362
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
    Issue number9-10
    Publication statusPublished - May 2017


    • family
    • holistic care
    • military nursing
    • nurse
    • Philosophical hermeneutics
    • qualitative study
    • resilience
    • self-care
    • spirituality


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