Nurses Caring for the Spirit: Patients With Cancer and Family Caregiver Expectations

Elizabeth Johnston Taylor

ONF 2003, 30(4), 585-590. DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.585-590

Purpose/Objectives: To determine what patients with cancer and primary family caregivers expect from nurses with regard to having their spiritual needs addressed.

Research Approach: Descriptive, cross-sectional, qualitative study using Miles and Huberman's approach to data reduction.

Setting: Outpatient and inpatient settings in a county hospital and a comprehensive cancer center, both located in a large, southwestern, metropolitan area.

Participants: 28 African American and Euro-American adult patients with cancer and primary family caregivers were purposively selected to provide variation of experiences (e.g., religious backgrounds).

Methodologic Approach: In-depth, semistructured, tape-recorded interviews conducted by the investigator. Analysis of transcribed interviews concurrently with data collection followed a process of data concentration, data display, and conclusion drawing.

Main Research Variables: Spiritual needs, spiritual care.

Findings: Informants identified nursing approaches for spiritual needs, including kindness and respect; talking and listening; prayer; connecting with symmetry, authenticity, and physical presence; quality temporal nursing care; and mobilizing religious or spiritual resources. To provide spiritual care, nurses must possess requisites of a personal, relational, or professional nature.

Conclusions: Although some patients or caregivers do not want overt forms of spiritual care, others are eager for them. Many recognize non-religious actions or attitudes that nurses can practice to care for spiritual needs.

Interpretation: Nurses must consider how they can address patient preconceptions and requisites for spiritual caregiving. Nurses may need to educate the public regarding their role as holistic and spiritual healthcare providers.

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