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Walker, Andreas; Breitsameter, Christof (2017): The Provision of Spiritual Care in Hospices: A Study in Four Hospices in North Rhine-Westphalia. In: Journal of Religion & Health, Vol. 56, No. 6: pp. 2237-2250
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This article considers the role and the practices of spiritual care in hospices. While spiritual care was firmly established as one of the four pillars of practical hospice care alongside medical, psychological and social care by Cicely Saunders, the importance and functions of spiritual care in daily practice remain arguable. When speaking about spirituality, what are we actually speaking about? What form do the spiritual relations take between full-time staff and volunteers on the one hand, and the patients and their family members on the other? These were central questions of a qualitative study that we carried out in four hospices in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, to explore how spiritual care is provided in hospices and what significance spirituality has in hospices. The study shows that the advantages of a broader definition of spirituality lie in "spiritual care" no longer being bound to one single profession, namely that of the chaplain. It also opens the way for nurses and volunteers-irrespective of their own religious beliefs-to provide spiritual end-of-life care to patients in hospices. If the hospice nurses and volunteers were able to mitigate the patients' fear not only by using medications but also in a psychosocial or spiritual respect, then they saw this as a successful psychological and spiritual guidance. The spiritual guidance is to some degree independent of religious belief because it refers to a "spirit" or "inner core" of human beings. But this guidance needs assistance from professional knowledge considering religious rituals if the patients are deeply rooted in a (non-Christian) religion. Here, the lack of knowledge could be eliminated by further education as an essential but not sufficient condition.