Military nurses provide care to seriously injured service members in flight, on the ground, or at sea during transport from the point of injury to a facility capable of providing higher levels of care. From this experience nurses are at increased risk of developing negative behavioral health symptoms. Spirituality, a belief in someone or something greater than oneself, could provide behavioral health support for military nurses who serve in this role.
To determine the impact of spirituality on the behavioral health of nurses who provided en route care while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
This exploratory mixed-methods study used 5 instruments to determine levels of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress, posttraumatic growth, and resilience among 119 military nurses. Interviews provided rich data about the experiences of these nurses and extended quantitative outcomes.
Posttraumatic Growth Inventory findings showed no significant change in spirituality based on deployment experiences (mean, 3.07; SD, 3.26). However, interviews revealed that spirituality served as a buffer against developing behavioral health issues. Many relied on spirituality to get them through difficult experiences. There was also a sense of moral injury as a few expressed regrets for things they witnessed or experienced.
Spirituality can insulate military nurses from negative behavioral health symptoms. Nurses included in the study relied on their spirituality to stay mentally fit. For nurses who experienced moral injury, supervisory recognition of this and appropriate referral may decrease the long-term effects of deployment on their behavioral health.