Unmet spiritual care needs impact emotional and spiritual well-being in advanced cancer patients

Michelle Pearce, April Coan, James Herndon, Harold Koenig, Amy Abernethy

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    141 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose Spiritual care is an important part of healthcare, especially when facing the crisis of advanced cancer. Do oncology inpatients receive spiritual care consistent with their needs? When inconsistent, are there deleterious effects on patient outcomes? Methods Patients with advanced cancer (N0150) were surveyed during their inpatient stay at a southeastern medical center using validated instruments documenting spirituality, quality of life, mood, and satisfaction with care. Relationships between the receipt of less spiritual care than desired and patient outcomes were examined. Results Almost all patients had spiritual needs (91%) and the majority desired and received spiritual care from their healthcare providers (67%; 68%), religious community (78%; 73%), and hospital chaplain (45%; 36%). However, a significant subset received less spiritual care than desired from their healthcare providers (17%), religious community (11%), and chaplain (40%); in absolute terms, the number who received less care than desired from one or more sources was substantial (42 of 150). Attention to spiritual care would improve satisfaction with care while hospitalized for 35% of patients. Patients who received less spiritual care than desired reported more depressive symptoms [adjusted β (SE)01.2 (0.47), p00.013] and less meaning and peace [adjusted β (SE)0 2.37 (1.15), p00.042]. Conclusions A substantial minority of patients did not receive the spiritual care they desired while hospitalized. When spiritual needs are not met, patients are at risk of depression and reduced sense of spiritual meaning and peace. Spiritual care should be matched to cancer patients' needs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2269-2276
    Number of pages8
    JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
    Issue number10
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


    • Advanced cancer patients
    • Depression
    • Inpatient
    • Quality of life
    • Spiritual care
    • Spiritual needs


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