Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership


The purposes of this study were to explore: (1) cancer patients' perceptions of spiritual care given by nurses, (2) the documentation on records of the provision of care, and (3) the relationship of spiritual care provided to the spiritual well-being of patients.

Forty terminally ill cancer patients hospitalized on oncology units at three medical centers were surveyed about the nature and scope of spiritual care provided by nurses and others, and their perceptions of their spiritual well-being. Data were collected by trained registered nurses who administered two questionnaires to which patients responded orally.

The following is the list of spiritual care interventions and the percentages of subjects who reported receiving them: encourage patient to talk about hopes and dreams (72.5%), talked to patient about God (67.5%), read Scripture (65%), listened to patient talk about God (60%), talked about religious beliefs (62.5%), assured patient presence of Supreme Being (72.5%), prayed for patient (92.5%), and provided materials which lift the spirits (60%). Nurses, along with pastoral care representatives, family, and friends were reported to have provided each of these interventions. Thirty-five percent of those who did not receive the interventions said it was important for a nurse to provide the care.

Records showed that there was limited documentation of spiritual care given, even though patients reported that nurses had provided care. Documentation which did exist was generally referenced to the patient's religion or choice of clergy. Spiritual well-being was assessed on two dimensions: (1) traditional religious aspects, and (2) existential aspects with no particular religion basis. Patients scored higher on the measures of religious well-being than they did on the existential measures which referred to more general satisfaction with the purpose and meaning of life.

A trend which emerged was that frequency of spiritual care intervention decreased with age. Patients reported that nurses were often too busy to provide spiritual care. The study was limited by the inability to obtain the number of subjects originally proposes. Patients were either too ill to participate in the study, or they had narcotic therapy initiated during the first 48 hours hospitalized.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access