Dr Lucy Selman, Research Associate, King’s College London and Co-chair of the Research Sub-group of the EAPC Spiritual Care Taskforce
By the time you read this you will have received an email from the EAPC inviting you to participate in a ground-breaking survey to help establish research priorities in spiritual care – please take ten minutes to complete it here.
The survey is open to researchers, palliative care clinicians and others involved in the provision of palliative care. The deadline for completion is 4 May 2012 and your help in circulating it to your colleagues is much appreciated. The survey will pave the way for rigorous research in spiritual care by contributing to a research agenda in this important but neglected field.
My personal interest in spiritual care, understood broadly to include existential as well as religious support, has grown out of a personal interest in Eastern philosophies, as well as exploration, in the course of my PhD study, of the spiritual well-being of patients with incurable, progressive disease in sub-Saharan Africa. From the perspective of a researcher, it has always struck me how little evidence there is to inform spiritual care, despite its integral place in the WHO definition of palliative care. We know that patients’ spiritual needs are neglected in clinical practice (Ross 2006, Kristeller et al 1999, Kuuppelomaki 2001, MCPCIL 2011/2012), and that this disregard is associated with reduced quality of life (Balboni et al 2007), dissatisfaction with care (Astrow et al 2007) and higher healthcare costs at the end of life (Balboni et al 2011). However, the vast majority of existing evidence in this area comes from the USA, which has a very different cultural and religious context to Europe. The numerous gaps in the evidence mean there are many different areas on which we could focus our research efforts: for example, what proportion of patients in Europe experience feelings of meaninglessness or existential despair? How can we best identify patients’ and caregivers’ spiritual needs? How effective is current spiritual care, and why? How can we best measure spiritual outcomes?
Given the extent of unanswered research questions in spiritual care, I developed the survey together with Teresa Young (Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre) on behalf of the EAPC Spiritual Care Taskforce in order to prioritise research questions and establish a research agenda to take forward spiritual care in Europe. Findings from the survey will be presented at the EAPC 7th World Research Congress in Trondheim in 2012. The Research Sub-group hopes in future to engage with patients, caregivers and international experts in the field of spiritual care to finalise a research agenda for spiritual care in Europe and facilitate collaborative multi-centre research.