Promoting Research Literacy for Improved Patient Outcomes

Parents’ spiritual and religious needs in young oncology

As part of a small scale phenomenological study of the spiritual and religious needs of young people with cancer undertaken by Birmingham (UK) Children’s Hospital Chaplaincy in partnership with the Oncology Department, parents of 8 young people, and 9 young people were interviewed using semi-structured interviews and 2 focus groups were run with staff. This article is a summary of findings regarding parents which are significant in providing holistic care. Spiritual needs identified included the value of sharing their story, cumulative impact of loss, the importance of supportive presence from staff and friends, struggling with difficult feelings, mutual protection and autonomy, resilience, desire to make a contribution, cultural differences and boundaries. Religious needs included questions and experiences, the balance between parental and patient religious needs and changing religious needs. Implications for practice include mitigating against complicated grief and other expressions of loss through facilitating staff to meet the spiritual and religious needs of parents with the associated consequences for self-care, exploring boundaries, understanding the inverted transition whereby young people become more dependent on their parents at an age when they would usually be seeking greater autonomy and being aware of specific religious beliefs which impact the way parents interpret illness.