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Spiritual care nursing: what cancer patients and family caregivers want


  • Elizabeth Johnston Taylor PhD RN,

  • Iris Mamier MA RN

Elizabeth Johnston Taylor,
School of Nursing,
Loma Linda University,
11626 Campus Street,
Loma Linda,
CA 92350,


Aim.  This paper presents findings from a study that was designed to understand, from the perspective of cancer patients and their family caregivers, what spiritual care is wanted from nurses.

Background.  Distressing and transformative spiritual responses to living with cancer have been documented. Although there is momentum for providing spiritual care, previous research provides scanty and conflicting evidence about what are the clients’ wishes or preferences with regard to receiving spiritual care from nurses.

Methods.  A convenience sample of 156 adult cancer patients and 68 primary family caregivers, most of whom were Christians, independently completed the Spiritual Interests Related to Illness Scale and a demographic form, both of which were self-completed questionnaires.

Results.  A variation in responses to items about nurses providing spiritual care therapeutics was observed; means and medians for these items mostly fell between 2 (disagree) and 3 (agree) on a scale of 1–4. Generally, therapeutics that were less intimate, commonly used, and not overtly religious were most welcomed. No significant differences were found between patient and caregiver preferences. A modest, direct correlation was observed between frequency of attendance at religious services and increased preference for nurse spiritual care.

Conclusion.  For both patients and caregivers, nurses must be sensitive to providing spiritual nurture in ways that are welcomed.