The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12904-017-0197-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Though most models of palliative care specifically include spiritual care as an essential element, secular health care organizations struggle with supporting spiritual care for people who are dying and their families. Organizations often leave responsibility for such care with individual care providers, some of whom are comfortable with this role and well supported, others who are not. This study looked to hospice programs founded and operated on specific spiritual foundations to identify, if possible, organizational-level practices that support high-quality spiritual care that then might be applied in secular healthcare organizations.
Forty-six digitally-recorded interviews were conducted with bereaved family members, care providers and administrators associated with four hospice organizations in North America, representing Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, and Salvation Army faith traditions. The interviews were analyzed iteratively using the constant comparison method within a grounded theory approach.
Nine Principles for organizational support for spiritual care emerged from the interviews. Three Principles identify where and how spiritual care fits with the other aspects of palliative care; three Principles guide the organizational approach to spiritual care, including considerations of assessment and of sacred places; and three Principles support the spiritual practice of care providers within the organizations. Organizational practices that illustrate each of the principles were provided by interviewees.
These Principles, and the practices underlying them, could increase the quality of spiritual care offered by secular health care organizations at the end of life.
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