The National Cancer Institute recently updated its summary of Spirituality in Cancer Care.
The summary reviews the most recent literature and finds:
- More than 90 percent of adults "express a belief in God."
- More than 70 percent "identified religion as one of the most important influences in their lives."
- "Both patients and family caregivers commonly rely on spirituality and religion to help them deal with serious physical illnesses and desire to have specific spiritual and religious needs and concerns acknowledged or addressed by medical staff."
However, the research also showed that medical staff (mainly physicians) do not inquire about spiritual needs or concerns. In fact, in one study, "those who reported that spiritual needs were not being met gave lower ratings to quality of care (P < .01) and reported lower satisfaction with care (P < .01)."
Addressing the spiritual needs of patients in treatment, not just at end of life, actually leads to an improved quality of life experience. So, why aren't we doing it at diagnosis or beginning of treatment?
The NCI says, "Given the importance of religion and spirituality to patients, integrating systematic assessment of such needs into medical care, including outpatient care, is crucial. The development of better assessment tools will make it easier to discern which aspects of religious and spiritual coping may be important in a particular patient's adjustment to illness."
And, while I agree with the need for effective assessment tools, I wonder if we need to take a step back and address our own spiritual needs and concerns. If we aren't comfortable with or value spiritual things, why would we be comfortable with or value it as a "need" for another?
Confronting our own spiritual needs (and seeking ways to meet them) can help us when the job gets to be too much, or when we're starting to drop all of the balls we're juggling (work, family, school, etc.).
Tami Borneman wrote a blog called Spiritual Resources for the Oncology Nurse that is like a one-stop shop of books, journals, and Websites to add to "your spiritual arsenal," she says. I would encourage the community to look these over, not just for patients but also for your own personal growth.
Has anyone made the shift from being a bit "meh" about spiritual things to finding a spiritual life that now helps define you personally? How did it affect you professionally when talking to patients about their needs?