Background Supporting patients spiritually as they approach the end-of-life is vital. If spiritual needs are unmet, patients are at increased risk of poorer psychological outcomes, quality of life is diminished, and a reduced sense of spiritual peace ensues. Yet many healthcare professionals feel unprepared to appreciate, assess and tackle patients’ spiritual issues.
Cheshire & Merseyside Palliative & End of Life Care Network has run the ‘Opening the Spiritual Gate’ course, across the UK for a number of years, to address this training need. This aims to increase awareness of spiritual and religious needs and facilitate recognition of spiritual distress.
Aim To explore participant perceptions of spiritual care and the impact of the training on their clinical roles after completing the course.
Methods A qualitative methodology was adopted, using digitally recorded semi-structured interviews. Purposive sampling of healthcare professionals who had undertaken the course, in either the North West or South West of England between 2015–2017, resulted in 21 participants. Data were subject to thematic analysis.
Results All participants reported on the value of the course and the impact on their clinical roles, including being better able to recognise when spiritual distress may be evident. Two main themes were identified; recognising spirituality, containing sub-themes of what spirituality means and what matters, and supporting spiritual needs with sub-themes of recognition of spiritual distress, communication skills, not having the answers and going beyond the physical.
Conclusions The course is clearly effective in preparing staff to recognise opportunities to provide individualistic spiritual care. Acknowledging that spiritual care is as important as physical care, and having the skills to address it, is vital for delivery of best holistic care.
Funding Cheshire and Merseyside Palliative & End of Life Network Education Strategy Group.