Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Case Study of a Chaplain’s Spiritual Care for a Patient with Advanced Metastatic Breast Cancer

The case study seeks to describe an oncology chaplain’s pastoral relationship with a 64-year-old woman with advanced metastatic breast cancer. The patient’s distress was complicated by a history of anxiety and other chronic medical conditions. Approximately 16 pastoral encounters occurred during the last year of the patient’s life. The patient, chaplain, and the pastoral conversations are presented as well as a retrospective assessment of them. The chaplain’s interventions were appropriate for the patient’s spiritual needs, particularly in regard to her fear of death, loneliness, grief that her life was “too short” and estrangement from her inherited faith tradition, with observable benefits for the patient. The oncology chaplain has a distinctive role in the healthcare team as one who can meet the patient at the point of their spiritual need, provide appropriate interventions and, thereby, ameliorate the distress, particularly in regard to death anxiety, peace of mind, and issues of meaning.