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Type: Journal article
Title: Creating a safe space: a qualitative inquiry into the way doctors discuss spirituality
Author: Best, M.
Butow, P.
Olver, I.
Citation: Palliative and Supportive Care, 2016; 14(5):519-531
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Issue Date: 2016
ISSN: 1478-9515
Statement of
Megan Best, Phyllis Butow, Ian Olver
Abstract: Objective: Spiritual history taking by physicians is recommended as part of palliative care. Nevertheless, very few studies have explored the way that experienced physicians undertake this task. Method: Using grounded theory, semistructured interviews were conducted with 23 physicians who had experience in caring for advanced cancer patients. They were asked to describe the way they discuss spirituality with their patients. Results: We have described a delicate, skilled, tailored process whereby physicians create a space in which patients feel safe enough to discuss intimate topics. Six themes were identified: (1) developing the self: physicians describe the need to understand and be secure in one's own spirituality and be comfortable with one's own mortality before being able to discuss spirituality; (2) developing one's attitude: awareness of the importance of spirituality in the life of a patient, and the need to respect each patient's beliefs is a prerequisite; (3) experienced physicians wait for the patient to give them an indication that they are ready to discuss spiritual issues and follow their lead; (4) what makes it easier: spiritual discussion is easier when doctor and patient share spiritual and cultural backgrounds, and the patient needs to be physically comfortable and willing to talk; (5) what makes it harder: experienced physicians know that they will find it difficult to discuss spirituality when they are rushed and when they identify too closely with a patient's struggles; and (6) an important and effective intervention: exploration of patient spirituality improves care and enhances coping. Significance of results: A delicate, skilled, tailored process has been described whereby doctors endeavor to create a space in which patients feel sufficiently safe to discuss intimate topics.
Keywords: Spirituality; neoplasms; physician-patient communication; qualitative; end of life
Rights: © Cambridge University Press, 2015
RMID: 0030040142
DOI: 10.1017/S1478951515001236
Appears in Collections:Public Health publications

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