Spirituality in nursing: an overview of research methods

Helga Martins, Joana Romeiro, Sílvia Caldeira*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Spirituality has been widely considered important for patients’ health and for healthcare practice and is related to connectedness, meaning in life, and transcendence. Research concerning spirituality is growing rapidly, and the implementation of spiritual care should be based on evidence. This literature review aims to describe the methods that have been used in nursing research focusing on spirituality. The electronic search on databases through EBSCOhost identified 2091 citations, and a total of 231 studies were included. The methods used in research on spirituality in nursing are mostly quantitative (52.4%), but some are qualitative (42.8%) and mixed (4.8%). Regarding the quantitative research, most studies are observational (90.9%), and these are mainly descriptive (82.7%) and correlational (17.3%). Most studies used a cross-sectional design (98.7%), and few used longitudinal design (1.3%). The qualitative research is descriptive (39.4%), phenomenological (26.3%), and grounded theory (14.1%). Research on spirituality in nursing is based on both main paradigms (quantitative and qualitative), but also on mixed methods. Studies have mainly been conducted using cross-sectional designs when compared to longitudinal designs. The latter seem to constitute a gap in nursing knowledge and evidence regarding the changes of spirituality over time, which is particularly important for nurses’ delivery of spiritual care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number226
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017


  • Nursing
  • Research methods
  • Review
  • Spirituality


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