Spiritual care by nurses in curative oncology: a mixed-method study on patients’ perspectives and experiences

Anne Ebenau, Marieke Groot, Anja Visser, Hanneke W. M. van Laarhoven, René van Leeuwen, Bert Garssen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Aims: Spirituality can be important in adjusting to the experience of cancer and its medical treatment. Since nurses have frequent contact with patients, they seem to have a unique role in providing spiritual care. Nurses consider spiritual care important; however, little is known about how patients in a curative setting experience and value spiritual care. Therefore, this study aimed to give insight into patients’ experiences with and opinions about spiritual care as provided by nurses in curative cancer care. Methods: This is a national, multicentre mixed-methods study, combining a quantitative approach using questionnaires (n = 62) and a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews (n = 61). Nonparametric tests were used for quantitative data, and qualitative data were analysed inductively. Findings: Most patients rarely received spiritual care by nurses. If spiritual care was provided, it mainly consisted of noticing problems and referring to other professionals. This appeared to be dependent on certain ‘triggers’, such as age. Structural discussions on spirituality with a nurse were experienced rarely. This was explained by, among other factors, the hospital setting. Yet, the majority (79%) of patients found the attention to spirituality sufficient or very good. Furthermore, a majority (58%) viewed spiritual care as a nursing task: nurses should notice spiritual problems and refer to other professionals, though extensively discussing patients’ spirituality was neither considered nurses’ task nor capability. Conclusions: Attention to spiritual care in a curative setting, though not so much desired by most patients, should be pursued, because of its importance in performing person-centred nursing care and its positive impact on patients’ health. By training nurses in offering spiritual care in proactive and ‘nonactive’ (accepting) ways, spiritual care could be structurally offered in clinical practice in personalised forms. Since younger and less spiritual patients are not much satisfied with spiritual care by nurses, they need special attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-107
Number of pages12
JournalScandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

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