What do palliative care professionals understand as spiritual care? Findings from an EAPC survey

Bella Vivat, Rebecca Lodwick, Maria Teresa Garcia-Baquero Merino, Teresa Young

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From its inception palliative care has been understood as addressing four dimensions: physical, social, emotional/psychological, and spiritual/religious. However, the spiritual and/or religious element is poorly understood and under-researched, and little is known about palliative care professionals’ understandings of spiritual care, or how they seek to implement spiritual care in practice. Members of the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) Spiritual Care Taskforce (SCTF) designed and conducted a 28-item survey, supported by the EAPC Board, investigating palliative care professionals’ understandings and attempts to implement spiritual care. Following pilot-testing with 30 participants, the survey ran for a month. It was engaged with by 527 people from 67 countries and most regions of the world, with 502 answering at least two questions, 465 people answering at least one substantive questions, 228 providing examples of spiritual care at Q24, and 115 providing further comments at Q28. We analysed the sociodemographic data descriptively, thematically analysed the diverse, detailed spiritual care examples provided at Q24, and conducted a content analysis of Q28 responses. We identified nine themes from Q24 responses. Of these nine themes, five encompassed interactions between staff and patients, one of these five addressing the character, nature, or quality of care provided by staff; the other four specific content of that care: supporting patients’ wellbeing, supporting patients’ religious faiths, enabling reflection, and facilitating focused discussions. A sixth theme covered staff roles and responsibilities, including specific input from specialist providers. Three smaller themes addressed supporting others than patients: families before patients’ deaths, families during bereavement, and staff.
Original languageEnglish
Article number298
Number of pages23
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2023


  • care
  • chaplain
  • palliative
  • pastoral
  • professional
  • spiritual
  • survey
  • religion
  • religious

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