Physical care—the cleansing of wounds, replacement of bandages and the administration of needles—is only one side of the nursing profession. As 20th century philosopher C.S. Lewis reminded us, “we have a body, but we are a soul.” Khairunissa Dhamani, a Tanzanian resident, recently completed her PhD in nursing at The University of Alberta. Her research focused on the practice and understanding of spirituality in Tanzanian nursing care. Dhamani’s provocative and inspiring work earned her the Genevieve Gray PhD Medal in Nursing.
“The Genevieve Gray Medal meant a lot to me and to my family,” says Dhamani, who also received other scholarships and awards while completing her degree. “Besides motivating me to do better academically, financial awards helped me to pay part of my tuition for spring and summer courses.”
In Tanzania, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria are common, and the nursing environment can be stressful. Spiritual care is an added expectation of nurses but there is little, if any, space provided in hospitals for worship, and no inclusion of spirituality in the curriculum of nursing schools in the region.
“My goal is to integrate spirituality into clinical practice to enhance holistic nursing care,” says Dhamani. She also plans to use her skills to enhance the capacity of human resources for health in East Africa and to advance the nursing profession. Dhamani has rejoined the Aga Khan University in Tanzania as Academic Head and Assistant Professor of Advanced Nursing Studies Programme. Currently, she is the only faculty member in the advanced nursing programme to hold a PhD.