Background Spiritual care is an essential component of Palliative Care (PC) and a dimension of holistic care that preserves dignity and helps sick people to find meaning in suffering and in life. The knowledge about its implementation is still scarce in the Portuguese context. This study aimed to evaluate the facilities, barriers and needs for spiritual care in PC.
Method We conducted a descriptive cross-sectional survey of 180 health professionals in the period November 2018 to September 2019 at PC units. The data were collected through an online questionnaire published on social networks, after approval by an Ethics Committee. Sociodemographic and professional data, spiritual beliefs and knowledge about the objectives and purposes of PCs were collected. These were evaluated using an instrument consisting of 26 statements of dichotomous response (true/false).
Results The average age of participants was 42.42 years (SD=11.35), most are female (82.2%), nurses (43.9%), and 70% work in the health field. The total sample has worked on average for 15.67 ± 10.28 years and more than half (58.9%) perform functions in palliative care. Most identify with a religious belief (87.8%), attaching great importance to spiritual/religious conviction (45% of participants). The results suggest that empathy and the therapeutic use of silence (82.2%) are facilitators of spiritual care. The key barriers refer to the lack of expert professionals and the organization of care (36.1%). The results also highlight the need for specific training in the area of spirituality, hope and intervention strategies (53.9%).
Conclusion This study has provided insight into spiritual care in PC in Portugal. Future studies are necessary to investigate the effects of spiritual care more fully, and to develop outcome measurements that appropriately capture the effects of the variety of spiritual care practices.
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