Teaching spirituality and spiritual care to hospice volunteers – a curriculum to assist trainers

A new curriculum for hospice volunteers, published in November 2015, offers a training programme that specialises in spirituality and spiritual care. Margit Gratz and Traugott Roser have been working in hospice and palliative care (inpatient and outpatient care) for many years and used to teach volunteers. Here, they explain more about the training and provide some useful resources.

Margit Gratz

Margit Gratz

Hospice volunteers are confronted with a variety of patients and caregivers’ spiritual needs. They are expected to deal with spiritual needs and hopes, to identify spiritual distress, and to work with disrupted beliefs and value systems. Hospice volunteers often report that they lack communication skills and that they are overwhelmed with the need to give the required spiritual support. A Germany-wide survey confirmed that there is a need for a spiritual care curriculum to offer assistance in arranging spiritual care training for hospice volunteers. One hospice coordinator said:

“It is helpful for hospice volunteers to be a spiritual being who is able to reflect upon spirituality and talk about it in the encounter. But I can’t imagine spirituality as a subject for teaching but rather a suggestion for self-reflection only.”

Traugott Roser

Traugott Roser

So an explorative study was designed to define the core competencies and course aims. The results allowed the development of a spiritual care curriculum enabling hospice volunteers to deal with spiritual issues and meet expectations. The training concept offers 11 themes:

  • Understanding/definition of spirituality
  • Spiritual needs, distress, hopes, and resources
  • Spirituality in existential situations and crisis
  • Spirituality and meaning of life
  • Belief systems and cultural issues
  • Spirituality and coping/dealing with suffering
  • Introduction into practical spiritual care
  • Spiritual care: presence and communication
  • Spiritual care: „being present and endure in the encounter“
  • Spiritual care: referral to pastoral care service
  • Spiritual care: rituals and creativity.

Each theme is worked out in several parts:

For trainers:

  • Teaching sequences (including objectives and methods)
  • Literature recommendations
  • Training aims (concerning knowledge, skills, and attitude)
  • Teaching material.

For course participants:

  • Working material
  • Manuscript.

curricThe curriculum gives space to work on the institution’s own definition of spirituality, its concept of spiritual care, and its expectations of the volunteers’ spiritual support in the encounter. A reflection on the aims of the training offers the opportunity to adapt the lessons to the institution’s focus and priorities. Hospice services with a religious background might be particularly interested in setting their own focus.

The training concept was evaluated by hospice coordinators and, in particular, by spiritual care trainers working with hospice homecare services. The resulting publication is offered as a printed book that includes an e-book and downloadable PowerPoint presentations. Teaching methods are not only in lecture format – teaching spirituality and spiritual care includes an interactive approach and self-reflecting methods, which are included in the programme.

As members of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force on Spiritual Care the authors are interested in bringing forward the teaching of spirituality. We would also be delighted for colleagues in other countries to adapt the publication to local requirements and to translate it into other languages (following consultation with the editors).

If you would like further information, please use the comments box below or email Margit Gratz.

References and resources

  • Gratz M, Roser T, Curriculum Spiritualität für ehrenamtliche Hospizbegleitung, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2016.
  • Germany-wide survey:
    Gratz M, Paal P, Emmelmann M, Roser T, Spiritual Care in the Training of Hospice Volunteers in Germany, In: Palliative & Supportive Care, in press.
  • Explorative study to define the core competencies and course aims:
    Gratz M, Roser T, Paal P, Hospice Volunteers’ Spiritual Care Training: A Discussion on Core Competencies and Course Aims, in preparation.
  • Evaluation with hospice coordinators respectively spiritual care trainers of hospice homecare services:
    Gratz M, Roser T, Kittelberger F, Paal P, Evaluierung eines Spiritual-Care-Curriculums für Hospizbegleiter, In: Zeitschrift für Palliativmedizin, 2015, 16 (2): 57-64.

More about the authors . . .
Margit Gratz
, theologian and palliative care specialist, is a former hospice coordinator and research assistant on the professorship for spiritual care in Munich. She is currently a research assistant at the University of Muenster (responsible for implementation of hospice work and palliative care in the residential homes of the Augustinum group) and teaches volunteers and nurses about hospice work, palliative care and spiritual care.
Prof. Dr. Traugott Roser is a protestant pastor and a professor of practical theology at the University of Muenster, teaching volunteers and nurses in hospice work, palliative care and spiritual care. He worked formerly as a pastoral counsellor in a palliative care unit and as a professor of spiritual care in Munich.

This entry was posted in EDUCATION & TRAINING, SPIRITUAL CARE, VOLUNTEERING IN PALLIATIVE CARE and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Teaching spirituality and spiritual care to hospice volunteers – a curriculum to assist trainers

  1. Rachel says:

    Valuable information. Congratulations well done. Kindly email me a copy to rfreeman@unam.na. thank you in advance. Keep up the good work.

  2. Debbie Hayden says:

    ________________________________

  3. Pingback: Teaching spirituality and spiritual care |

  4. Louise Moore says:

    This sounds really helpful. Please could you advise on whether there is an English version of the course. If so, I would be glad to know where to obtain a copy. Thank you

  5. Mark Thomas says:

    Under the auspices of The Gold Standards Framework Centre, I have developed a four module spiritual care of the dying programme for use with health and social care staff. More information is on our website, or from mark.thomas@gsfcentre.co.uk

    • Margit Gratz says:

      Many thanks to all of you. An english version doesn’t exist at the moment. Due to your responses we contacted the publisher Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht to inform them about your reactions. Spiritual care is one part only of the complete training programme for hospice volunteers in Germany. The training covers up to 100 lessons including psychosocial issues, communications skills, grief and bereavement, dementia, unit of care, etc. If the publisher considers a translation of the curriculum, we will let you know immediately.

  6. Margit Gratz says:

    Many thanks to all of you. An english version doesn’t exist at the moment. Due to your responses we contacted the publisher Vandenhoeck&Ruprecht to inform them about your reactions. Spiritual care is one part only of the complete training programme for hospice volunteers in Germany. The training covers up to 100 lessons including psychosocial issues, communications skills, grief and bereavement, dementia, unit of care, etc. If the publisher considers a translation of the curriculum, we will let you know immediately.

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