Although spirituality as it relates to patients is gaining increasing attention, less is known about how health care professionals (HCP) experience spirituality personally or collectively in the workplace. This study explores the collective spirituality of an interdisciplinary palliative care team, by studying how individuals felt about their own spirituality, whether there was a shared sense of a team spirituality, how spirituality related to the care the team provided to patients and whether they felt that they provided spiritual care.
A qualitative autoethnographic approach was used. The study was conducted in a 10-bed Tertiary Palliative Care Unit (TPCU) in a large acute-care referral hospital and cancer center. Interdisciplinary team members of the TPCU were invited to participate in one-to-one interviews and/or focus groups. Five interviews and three focus groups were conducted with a total of 20 participants.
Initially participants struggled to define spirituality. Concepts of spirituality relating to integrity, wholeness, meaning, and personal journeying emerged. For many, spirituality is inherently relational. Others acknowledged transcendence as an element of spirituality. Spirituality was described as being wrapped in caring and often manifests in small daily acts of kindness and of love, embedded within routine acts of caring. Palliative care served as a catalyst for team members' own spiritual journeys. For some participants, palliative care represented a spiritual calling. A collective spirituality stemming from common goals, values, and belonging surfaced.
This was the first known study that focused specifically on the exploration of a collective spirituality. The culture of palliative care seems to foster spiritual reflection among health care professionals both as individuals and as a whole. While spirituality was difficult to describe, it was a shared experience often tangibly present in the provision of care on all levels.
Medical advances in recent years have led to an increased life span for children with progressive, neurodegenerative illnesses. The purpose of this hermeneutic inquiry was to explore the experience of families caring for their child at home. In-depth, audiorecorded interviews with six families (13 interviews) living in western Canada were transcribed and analyzed. The illness journey was revealed to be complex and unpredictable. We discovered many metaphors that spoke to the child's/family's life and explored the paradox of duality, such as holding both joy and sorrow, and containing both suffering and love. We outline implications for policy development within the area of respite care and coordination of services for families. The voices of families must be a vital component to influence and guide education and service development within the emerging specialty of pediatric palliative care.
Research related to spirituality and health has developed from relative obscurity to a thriving field of study over the last 20 years both within palliative care and within health care in general. This paper provides a descriptive review of the literature related to spirituality and health, with a special focus on spirituality within palliative and end-of-life care. CINAHL and MEDLINE were searched under the keywords "spirituality" and "palliative." The review revealed five overarching themes in the general spirituality and health literature: (1) conceptual difficulties related to the term spirituality and proposed solutions; (2) the relationship between spirituality and religion; (3) the effects of spirituality on health; (4) the subjects enrolled in spirituality-related research; and (5) the provision of spiritual care. While the spirituality literature within palliative care shared these overarching characteristics of the broader spirituality and health literature, six specific thematic areas transpired: (1) general discussions of spirituality in palliative care; (2) the spiritual needs of palliative care patients; (3) the nature of hope in palliative care; (4) tools and therapies related to spirituality; (5) effects of religion in palliative care; and (6) spirituality and palliative care professionals. The literature as it relates to these themes is summarized in this review. Spirituality is emerging largely as a concept void of religion, an instrument to be utilized in improving or maintaining health and quality of life, and focussed predominantly on the "self" largely in the form of the patient. While representing an important beginning, the authors suggest that a more integral approach needs to be developed that elicits the experiential nature of spirituality that is shared by patients, family members, and health care professionals alike.