Spiritual Needs of Dying Patients: A Qualitative Study

Carla P. Hermann

terminally ill, psychosocial aspects, spirituality, qualitative study, thematic synthesis, palliative care, hospice care

Purpose/Objectives: To identify dying patients’ definitions of spirituality and their spiritual needs.

Design: Descriptive, qualitative.

Setting: Participants’ places of residence.

Sample: 19 hospice patients (10 females and 9 males), mean age 72, with a range of length of time as a hospice patient of 2 weeks to 12 months.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted. Interview transcripts and field notes were analyzed to reduce data into codes and themes. Data were coded by extracting verbatim phrases used to describe spirituality and spiritual needs. Themes emerged from the data as commonalities among the codes developed.

Main Research Variables: Meaning of “spiritual” and perceived spiritual needs.

Findings: Participants initially defined spiritual as relating to God or religion; however, as interviews progressed, it was apparent that their spirituality was a part of their total existence. Twenty-nine unique spiritual needs were identified and grouped into six themes: need for religion, need for companionship, need for involvement and control, need to finish business, need to experience nature, and need for positive outlook.

Conclusions: Participants perceived spirituality as a broad concept that may or may not involve religion. Spiritual needs were likewise broad in scope and were linked closely to purpose and meaning in life.

Implications for Nursing Practice: Spiritual care of dying patients is within the scope of nursing practice. Spiritual needs are quite varied and encompass more than religion. If nurses are to enhance the quality of life of dying patients, spiritual needs must be addressed.

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