Spiritual care by nurses in curative cancer care: Protocol for a national, multicentre, mixed method study

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Why is this study needed?The topic of spiritual care by nurses in curative cancer care is up to now unexplored.Based on the findings of this study, leaders in nursing and nursing education can decide if improvements are needed and if so, what they should look like.1 INTRODUCTIONThe number of people experiencing cancer has increased worldwide. Due to, for example, ageing of the population and changes in lifestyle, the amount of new cancer patients in the Netherlands rises with 3% a year. The number of (new) diagnoses is expected to increase to 123,000 in 2020. Chances of survival depend on cancer type and the stage where the illness is diagnosed. Roughly speaking, half of all people with cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis (Siesling, Sonke, De Raaf, & Jansen, 2014).1.1 BackgroundCancer causes patients to suffer from diverse symptoms related to their illness and people can experience reduced quality of life. Hospital nurses play an important role in the care for people with cancer. In general, they have more frequent contact with patients than do medical doctors. If patients are treated with chemotherapy, either at an outpatient or a clinical department, nurses are the primary professional caregiver in charge of the physical, medical and technical aspects of that treatment as well as for the psychosocial care for the patient. Next to physical and psychosocial symptoms, people might also experience spiritual needs (Moadel et al., 1999). Nurses have to pay attention to and care for their patients’ spirituality; a component of care which nurses believe is important (Delgado, 2015; Gallison, Xu, Jurgens, & Boyle, 2013; McSherry & Jamieson, 2011). Patients and their family caregivers also have emphasized the relevance of spirituality and spiritual care for cancer nursing (Highfield, 1992; Taylor & Mamier, 2005). There seems to be a positive correlation between spiritual care perceptions and spiritual care practice (Chan, 2010). Spirituality is regarded as especially relevant for cancer patients’ well‐being (Visser, Garssen, & Vingerhoets, 2010). Nurses are in the position to safeguard aspects of spirituality like the wholeness and connectedness of their patients and are therefore able to help patients to cope with the illness and its treatment.To date, research on spiritual care in oncology has mainly focused on patients who were treated with a palliative intent or an undefined mixed population of cancer patients (Chan, 2010; Taylor, Highfield, & Amenta, 1994). To the best of our knowledge, there is a scarcity of research on spiritual nursing care in a specific curative cancer setting and, therefore, it is still unclear if patients who are treated for their cancer with curative intent receive spiritual care from their nurses. We also do not know if, despite the threats that living and coping with a life‐threatening disease like cancer and its treatment pose on patients, the patients have a wish for spiritual care or find it appropriate for nurses to pay attention to that dimension.To address this knowledge gap in the specific Dutch context where the attitude towards religion and spirituality is different from that in the USA, the Dutch Cancer Society/Alpe d'HuZes funded the national research project “Spiritual care by nurses in curative cancer care: experiences and expectations of patients and nurses” (Dutch acronym “SPIR‐VONC”). The aim of this mixed methods study is to investigate the quantity and quality of spiritual care in curative cancer care from the view of patients and nurses and, if necessary, to provide suggestions for the improvement of nursing care for cancer patients who are treated with curative intent.

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