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Unmet spiritual needs in palliative care: psychometrics of a screening checklist


Background While studies in palliative care use measures of spirituality and religious belief, there have been few validation studies of a screening tool that identifies unmet spiritual needs.

Methods A multidisciplinary research team developed and examined the usefulness, reliability and validity of a 17-item Spiritual Concerns Checklist (SCC) as a screening tool for unmet spiritual needs. A cohort of patients recruited from three palliative care services in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia completed anonymous questionnaires. Factor structure and item response theory were used to examine its properties; concurrent validity employed the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy—Spiritual Well-Being Scale (FACIT-Sp-12).

Results Among 261 patients, while only 15% directly sought spiritual care, nearly 62% identified at least one spiritual concern. Existential needs (fear of the dying process 32%; loss of control 31%), regret (20%), need for forgiveness (17%), guilt (13%), loss of hope (13%) and meaning (15%) were prominent concerns. Eleven concerns were present for more than 10% of the participants and 25% of religiously orientated participants expressed >4 concerns. The 17-item SCC was unidimensional, with satisfactory reliability. Concurrent validity was evident in the reduced sense of meaning and peace on the FACIT-Sp-12.

Conclusion This preliminary Rasch analysis of the newly developed SCC has demonstrated its usefulness, reliability and validity. Our findings encourage refinement and ongoing development of the SCC with further investigation of its psychometric properties in varying populations.

  • spiritual care
  • quality of life
  • psychological care
  • hospice care

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