Aim To test a methodology for use in understanding what is meant by ‘spiritual need’
Background Nurses are required routinely to conduct spiritual assessments (NMC 2010). Yet, despite a growing literature around spiritual assessment (McSherry & Ross 2010; Holloway et al 2011), knowledge about what constitutes spiritual needs remains limited. Without this knowledge, nurses are ill-equipped to make their assessments (McSherry & Jamieson 2011). The methodology is intended to be used in a lager study aimed at building a spiritual need typology.
Method The pilot study – an interpretive study using a form of discourse analysis – worked with 9 spiritual care specialists, each of whom shared, in depth, one encounter with a person they considered had been in ‘spiritual need’. Working in focus groups and using semi-structured questions, the method aimed to:
gather narrative accounts about the experience of people in spiritual need;
generate descriptive vocabulary articulating those experiences.
Participants orally described their encounter, which they then documented on a specially designed form. Participants next discussed their written accounts with colleagues to identify and record:
key words that characterise the experience of spiritual need; and
indicators (objective and subjective) of spiritual need.
Finally, participants wrote a brief, summary description of the spiritual need, which they further refined with their colleagues.
Result The pilot identified refinements to improve the methodology as an effective way of gathering data useful in building a typology of spiritual need.
Application to hospice practice With evidence growing that attending to spiritual needs has a beneficial effect on health outcomes (Koenig et al 2012), a clearer understanding of what constitutes ‘spiritual need’ is likely to have direct impact on patient care and health outcomes.
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