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Stritch integrates spiritual care into nurse training

Cardinal Stritch University Nursing professor Julie Lepianka attended the Interprofessional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum (ISPEC) training program hosted by the George Washington Institute for Spirituality & Health (GWish) this summer.

Ms. Lepianka and Stritch alumna Dr. Samantha Thurner, a chaplain at Aurora West Allis Medical Center, were among 50 two-person teams selected from a pool of national and international applicants to participate in the training. Ms. Lepianka and Dr. Thurner formed one of three teams that comprised a full-time academician and a chaplain.

ISPEC is the first to be developed at the global level and offers theoretically and research-grounded curriculum for teaching interprofessional spiritual care. GWish supports the critical role spirituality and spiritual care plays in the care of patients, particularly those with chronic and complex illnesses. Professionals trained in ISPEC can educate, empower, and guide their peers in the integration of spirituality in healthcare.

“Healthcare leaders from numerous countries and states participated in the program, which demonstrates just how powerful the spiritual care movement is,” said Ms. Lepianka. “This opportunity confirmed that Cardinal Stritch University stands out as a true leader in spiritual care education. By learning to provide compassionate spiritual care, our nursing students are truly living the Franciscan Values and are part of a movement that will benefit the lives of patients for years to come.”

Stritch nursing students have the opportunity to practice the approach by engaging in simulation exercises. They also shadow hospital chaplains, hospice nurses, and palliative care nurse practitioners or doctors. Chaplains visit Stritch classrooms to discuss how nurses and chaplains can work in a collaborative manner to address patients’ spiritual care.

This instruction aligns closely with Stritch’s Franciscan values and a series of initiatives developed by the Ruth S. Coleman College of Nursing and Health Sciences that address the community’s mental health needs.