Spiritual care is reported as important for cancer patients, but the role of the doctor in its provision is unclear. We undertook to understand the nature of spiritual support for Australian cancer patients and their preferences regarding spiritual care from doctors.
Using grounded theory, semistructured interviews were conducted with 15 cancer patients with advanced disease in a variety of care settings. Patients were asked about the source of their spiritual support and how they would like their doctors to engage with them on spiritual issues.
Three themes were identified as follows: (1) sources of spiritual support which helped patients cope with illness and meet spiritual needs, (2) facilitators of spiritual support, and (3) role of the doctor in spiritual support.
Regardless of religious background, the majority of patients wanted their doctor to ask about their source of spiritual support and facilitate access to it. Patients did not want spiritual guidance from their doctors, but wanted to be treated holistically and to have a good relationship, which allowed them to discuss their fears. Doctors’ understanding of the spiritual dimension of the patient was part of this.
Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. Patients in a secular society want their doctor to take an interest in their spiritual support and facilitate access to it during illness.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.