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Open Access Research article

An investigation into the spiritual needs of neuro-oncology patients from a nurse perspective

Aline Victoria Nixon1, Aru Narayanasamy2* and Vivian Penny3

Author Affiliations

1 Research Nurse, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queens Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

2 Associate Professor and Director of Ethnicity, Diversity and Spirituality (EDS) Hub, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy, Queens Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

3 Associate Professor and Academic Lead for Adult Nursing, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Physiotherapy, Queens Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK

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BMC Nursing 2013, 12:2  doi:10.1186/1472-6955-12-2

Published: 1 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Spiritual needs of cancer patients should be assessed and discussed by healthcare professionals. Neurosurgical nurses need to be able to assess and support neuro-oncology patients with their spiritual needs from diagnosis and throughout their hospital stay.

Methods

Data were collected through questionnaires using a Critical Incident Technique (CIT) from neurosurgical nurses, findings were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results

Nurses reported some awareness of their patients’ spiritual needs during their stay on neurosurgical units although some used expressions approximating what could be described as spiritual needs. Patients’ spiritual needs were identified as: need to talk about spiritual concerns, showing sensitivity to patients’ emotions, responding to religious needs; and relatives’ spiritual needs included: supporting them with end of life decisions, supporting them when feeling being lost and unbalanced, encouraging exploration of meaning of life, and providing space, time and privacy to talk. Participants appeared largely to be in tune with their patients’ spiritual needs and reported that they recognised effective strategies to meet their patients’ and relatives’ spiritual needs. However, the findings also suggest that they don’t always feel prepared to offer spiritual support for neuro-oncology patients.

Conclusions

There is a need for healthcare professionals to provide spiritual care for neuro-oncology patients and their relatives. Although strategies were identified that nurses can use to support patients with spiritual needs further research is required to explore how effective nurses are at delivering spiritual care and if nurses are the most appropriate professionals to support neuro-oncology patients with spiritual care.

Keywords:
Spirituality; Spiritual care; Neuro-oncology; Critical incident techniques