Comprehensive nursing care of children with cancer at the end of life must embrace the physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of these special children and their families. Focus must be placed on providing support, reducing suffering, and enhancing quality of life. However, there are distinct barriers that lead nurses to feel unprepared to provide spiritual care to children and families: a lack of knowledge about the effects of spiritual care, a failure to recognize spiritual needs, and a lack of understanding of how to provide spiritual care.
This study employed a prospective, longitudinal design to evaluate the potential effects of a spiritual care educational program on pediatric oncology nurses’ perceived attitudes toward and knowledge of spirituality/spiritual care, as well as their competence to provide spiritual care to children with cancer at the end of life.
Participants, including 112 worldwide members of APHON organization, completed an online theory-driven spiritual care educational program. One-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted to compare scores on nurses’ perceived attitudes toward and knowledge of spiritual care at baseline, immediately after completion of the program, and 3 months after program completion. Statistically significant results were found, as well as a very large effect size over time.
Through discussion of the components of this recent educational innovation in spiritual care, pediatric oncology nurses will expand their horizons by learning about the documented effects of spiritual care on patient outcomes, ways to assess children’s and their family members’ spiritual needs, and evidence-based interventions that allow nurses to provide effective spiritual care. These innovative strategies will assist learners to assess the distinct spiritual needs of children facing the end of life and their families, and to integrate practical spiritual care interventions into their daily nursing practice.
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- Cheryl Petersen, PhD RN