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.
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.”
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:
- Teaching sequences (including objectives and methods)
- Literature recommendations
- Training aims (concerning knowledge, skills, and attitude)
- Teaching material.
For course participants:
- Working material
The 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.
- The Bavarian Association for Hospice work and Palliative Care – offers an introductory telecourse for volunteers on the management board of hospices and has edited a book that includes an overview on training aims for hospice volunteers.
- The EAPC Task Force on Spiritual Care in Palliative Care.
- The EAPC Task Force on Volunteering in Hospice and Palliative Care.
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.