Four aspects of spiritual care: a phenomenological action research study on practicing and improving spiritual care at two Danish hospices

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Abstract

Background: In Denmark and internationally, there has been an increased focus on strengthening palliative care by enhancing spiritual care. Dying patients, however, do not experience their spiritual needs being adequately met. Methods: Through an action research study design with four consecutive stages, namely, observation in practice, reflection-on-praxis, action-in-praxis, and evaluation of the action research process involving patients and hospice staff from two hospices in Denmark, two research questions were explored: (1) How do patients and staff perceive, feel, live, practice, and understand spiritual care at hospice? and (2) How can spiritual care be improved in hospice practice? The data material presented comprised 12 individual interviews with patients and nine focus group interviews with the staff. Results: We found four aspects of spiritual care through which patients and staff seemed to perceive, feel, live, practice, and understand spiritual care at hospice, and from where spiritual care may be improved in hospice practice. These aspects constituted four themes: (1) relational, (2) individualistic, (3) embodied, and (4) verbal aspects of spiritual care. Conclusion: Staff realized immanent limitations of individual aspects of spiritual care but learned to trust that their relational abilities could improve spiritual care. Embodied aspects seemed to open for verbal aspects of spiritual care, but staff were reluctant to initiative verbal dialogue. They would bodily sense values about preserving patients’ boundaries in ways that seemed to hinder verbal aspects of spiritual care. During action-in-praxis, however, staff realized that they might have to initiate spiritual conversation in order to care for patients’ spiritual needs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPalliative Care and Social Practice
Volume15
Number of pages14
ISSN2632-3524
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • action research
  • hospice
  • palliative care
  • phenomenology
  • spiritual care

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