Doctors Sonya Grypma, TWU’s senior health advisor (left) and Sheryl Kirkham-Reimer, dean of nursing at Trinity Western University (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Trinity Western University researcher investigates spiritual side of physical suffering

Not limited to patients and their families, but extends to healthcare staff, too

Suffering can have not only physical and emotional dimensions, but also social and spiritual impact as well, Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham has found.

Dr. Reimer-Kirkham, dean of nursing at Trinity Western University in Langley, brought together international teams to study the expression of prayer in Vancouver, Canada and London, U.K. hospitals.

“We learned how prayer could be a source of comfort and connection, and a way of expressing one’s religious identity, all of which can be very important in coping with illness and suffering,” said Dr. Reimer-Kirkham, whose research focuses on diversity, religion, spirituality, equity and human rights in relation to health and healthcare services.

READ ALSO: Diversity and Anti-Racism Council established at Langley’s Trinity Western University

“Listening carefully to the stories of patients, chaplains, and healthcare providers pulled back the curtains, as it were, to the ways people make sense of illness and suffering,” said Reimer-Kirkham.

“Spiritual suffering is not limited to patients and their families, but extends to healthcare staff too, and thus workplace spirituality is increasingly growing as organizational priority, especially during the pandemic.” she commented.

“A healthcare organization needs to strike a balance, in allowing the expression of multiple forms of prayer while also supporting those who are non-religious.”

READ ALSO: Trinity Western University in Langley commemorates the missing and murdered for International Women’s Day

The World Health Organization has declared Wednesday, April 7 as World Health Day, marking the anniversary of the organization’s founding. The theme for 2021 is building a fairer, healthier world.

Dr. Sonya Grypma, vice provost of leadership and graduate studies, said while “access remains uneven across the globe, the current pandemic has opened up new, innovative ways of learning that have the potential to advance educational opportunities for women at a pace not imagined since the last pandemic.”

Early in her healthcare career, Dr. Grypma was an outpost nurse in a remote, fly-in Indigenous community, handling everything from diagnosis and treatment of general ailments and small injuries, to first response, triage and evacuation of emergencies, to pre-natal classes, home visits, and school health.

Today, Dr. Grypma is TWU’s senior health advisor, leading the university’s COVID-19 public health response.

As a nursing historian, she noted“professions like nursing provided a socially-acceptable opportunity for bright and ambitious women to gain advanced university degrees and to become part of a global network that foreshadowed bodies such as the World Health Organization.”


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