Reflections on a Chaplaincy Championed Spiritual Care Initiative in a New Zealand Cancer Ward
Keywords:Cancer, chaplaincy, chaplains, intervention, spiritual care, spirituality
This article describes the Spirituality Matters project, a multi-disciplinary quality improvement project conducted in an inpatient cancer treatment ward during the summer of 2014-2015 at Palmerston North Hospital, New Zealand. The project involved staff training, pre- and post-surveys of staff, trailing a spiritual screening tool, specially designed education material for patients and staff, and patient interviews. Key findings suggest that although 81% of staff indicated initially that they were confident about engaging with patient around spirituality, in reality many of them found the process very challenging. Difficulties with language, role definition, competing clinical priorities, and perceptions of chaplains as ‘religious’ were identified as significant barriers. Although the project aim, of improving spiritual care provision, was not sustained after its trial period, a number of important lessons were learnt. This included the challenges of driving change in a clinical setting; including methodology, resourcing, utilization of academic researchers and the need for resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The project did raise the profile of the chaplain and the issue of how best to meet spiritual need.
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