Institutional, Nurses’ and Patients’ Spiritual Imaginaries Compared

Sociological Notes from the Field


  • Matteo Di Placido University of Turin
  • Stefania Palmisano University of Turin
  • Fiona Timmins UCD College of Health Sciences



spiritual imaginaries, health and salvation, religion in hospital, governance of religious diversity


In this article we seek to compare institutional, professional (largely nurses’) and patients’ perspectives on spirituality with the aim of contributing to two different, albeit potentially overlapping, strands of research, namely, the study of the governance of religious diversity and the inclusion of spiritual interventions in hospital settings, using data collected in the research project RESPIRO (breath) (2019–2022). Importantly, in this article we rely on the toolkit of the sociological trade to explore what we can learn about religion and spirituality by studying hospitals, building on the working hypothesis that the practical and discursive universe of ‘health’ and ‘salvation’, the two most valued symbolic resources of the medical and the religious/spiritual fields respectively, are inherently interrelated. In so doing, we reconstruct the “spiritual imaginaries” surrounding institutional, nurses’ and patients’ perspectives on spirituality in hospital, a previously unexplored subject. These three spiritual imaginaries are the expression of hospital management’s, nurses’ and patients’ respective positioning in the broader field of religion and spirituality in healthcare; that is, they voice different instances of what is considered the legitimate representation of religion and spirituality within healthcare institutions and care practices.


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Author Biographies

  • Matteo Di Placido, University of Turin

    Matteo Di Placido is a a cultural sociologist and currently works as a Post-doctoral Fellow for the University of Turin. Matteo was a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Political Science and the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California Riverside (UCR) and an Academic Associate at the Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences at the Metropolitan University of Cardiff, Wales.

  • Stefania Palmisano, University of Turin

    Stefania Palmisano is Associate Professor in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Turin, Italy, where she teaches the sociology of organization and the sociology of religion. She was Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University and Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Religion, Philosophy and Cultural Heritage at Wolverhampton University.

  • Fiona Timmins, UCD College of Health Sciences

    Fiona Timmins is a Full Professor of Nursing, Dean and Head of School, at the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems University College Dublin, Ireland. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) and Visiting Professor at the University of Genoa, University of Maribor, Slovenia, East Technological University (SETU), Ireland and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Chester, UK.


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How to Cite

Di Placido, M., Palmisano, S., & Timmins, F. (2023). Institutional, Nurses’ and Patients’ Spiritual Imaginaries Compared: Sociological Notes from the Field. Fieldwork in Religion, 18(2), 158–183.