Background Spiritual care is a core component of holistic palliative care assessment. Previous research has explored spiritual care from the perspectives of doctors and trained nurses within palliative care units. Healthcare assistants (HCAs) have most contact with patients during an inpatient admission, and it might be argued have the greatest opportunity to deliver spiritual care. This study describes perceptions of spiritual care among HCAs.
Method Qualitative semistructured interviews with HCAs in an in-patient hospice setting on their perceptions of spiritual care were conducted (n=12) as part of an undergraduate special study module. Internal approval for the study was obtained. A questionnaire was devised based on those used in previous studies. One-to-one informal interviews with HCAs took place over 3 days in July 2011. Interviews explored HCA's perceptions of spiritual care.
Results A number of key themes were identified and will be discussed in detail. Most HCAs identified spiritual care as being part of the holistic care of patients and involves what is important to the patient. None of the respondents interpreted spiritual care as religious care only. Respondents identified their role in delivering spiritual care as spending time with, and listening to patients. Time constraints, noise, and staffing levels were identified as barriers to spiritual care. HCAs were apprehensive at the prospect of additional spiritual care training.
Conclusion HCAs are ideally placed to provide spiritual care in their daily contact with patients. Often they do not recognise the crucial role that they play in the delivery of spiritual care, but rather provide spiritual care through intuition and experience. Following on from this study spiritual care training will be provided for all staff within the inpatient unit and the impact of this will be evaluated.
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