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Nurse connects spirituality, health

| Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On Monday, professor and director of nursing Linda Paskiewicz discussed the distinctions and connections between spiritual concerns and healthcare. The lecture was part of the weekly Spirituality Monday series at Saint Mary’s, director of the Center for Spirituality Elizabeth Groppe said.

“[Spirituality Monday’s are] an opportunity for faculty, staff and students of Saint Mary’s to gather together to reflect on the relationship between spirituality and different academic disciplines and professional practices,” Groppe said.

In a clinically-based and regimented area of study such as nursing, the lines can be blurred when it comes to the distinctions between spirituality and clinical healthcare, Paskiewicz said.  An understanding of both develops over time.

“I use myself as an example,” Paskiewicz said. “When I was in high school, there were not a lot of career trajectories that were available for women. Women could go to a nursing program or ‘nurses training,’ as it was called then. Women could go to beauty school. Women could become teachers, or women could get married.

“Well, I decided if those were going to be my choices, the one I would pick for myself would be nursing. I just thought, ‘I think this is where I need to be.’ I had no sense … at that point of the spirituality, the big concept of spirituality, although I went to church and Sunday school. That sense of this spiritual self was not part of myself at all.”

Paskiewicz said she was first introduced to the nursing profession after she graduated high school at the age of seventeen.

“I worked as a nursing assistant at an inner-city hospital [in Chicago],” Paskiewicz said. “I knew nothing about nursing except for Cherry Ames books.”

One of her first patient connections was with a woman who resembled her grandmother. Paskiewicz said she used to stop by and chat with the patient even when not assigned to her room. Over time, Paskiewicz started to build relationships and to understand nursing on a more spiritual level.

“I think, very early on, not fully understanding the experience, I got to be friends with people like the chaplain who was there and spent some time just trying to talk through my feelings about working with patients,” Paskiewicz said. “And, very slowly, I began to have a much better appreciation of the whole mind, body [and] spirit connection.

“I like to think my beginning sense of understanding connectedness helped me to earn an award for the best clinical nurse in my class, but somehow, in hindsight … I thought maybe I am different, and maybe this is affirming to me that my way of thinking and being with people is different.”

Paskiewicz said she then examined her own spiritual development through the lens of childbirth, a division of nursing in which she spent much of her career before she became involved in education.

“I think that the spiritual connection can begin to develop between women and their babies long before the baby is born, and so to minimalize the time the baby is in the womb is a great mistake,” she said. “It’s an expansion of the mind and creation into a new life that is important.”

In order to organize her thoughts, Paskiewicz laid out her five spiritual steps she uses when practicing nursing. Her steps include meaning, the idea of becoming and connectedness.

“It’s very fun to see other nurses here as well, so they can contribute because I think that each of us come to develop … the importance of spiritual connection not only to ourselves but to others we serve,” Paskiewicz said.

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