Core Modules

module 2 | Activity 11: Understanding spiritual needs

At times, you may feel ill-equipped to respond to the spiritual dimension of care. Although you are not expected to have all the answers, recognising the importance of spiritual care is important for meeting holistic needs and providing person-centred care.[1, 2]

For some people, spirituality comes from their religious beliefs and commitments or the recognition of a higher power or a connection with others. For other people spirituality has no connection with religion at all and is associated with a connection to something bigger than themselves or the environment in general. Many people with life-limiting illnesses find that spirituality is an important source of comfort and strength. Others find that their belief system has been challenged by this experience and they may experience feelings of abandonment. Talking about spiritual issues and the search for meaning can be an important part of holistic care. An assessment of spiritual needs is a helpful starting point. Spiritual assessment should not impose a view nor a definition of spirituality. Instead it should seek to discover the thoughts, memories and experiences that give coherence to a person’s life.[3]

When addressing spiritual needs:[2, 4-6]

  • Respect the person’s perspectives and do not infringe on privacy
  • Involve all members of the multidisciplinary team to the extent that they are able and willing to contribute
  • Clearly document spiritual needs, strategic responses to these needs, resources required, and outcomes
  • Integrate strategies into an overall care plan in ways that are readily understood by all members of the multidisciplinary team
  • Provide a shared framework for continuity of care between community agencies and inpatient services
  • Provide a place for religious care but do not confuse spiritual issues with religious practice
  • Ensure that specific religious care is provided by a person from the same faith community, preferably one willing to participate in the team.
  1. Reflect on what spirituality means to you. How can this affect your professional responses to people with life-limiting illnesses?
  2. Identify specific strategies that can be used to:
    • Assess spiritual issues
    • Provide spiritual care to people affected by life-limiting illness.
  1. Broeckaert, B., Spirituality and palliative care. Indian journal of palliative care, 2011. 17(Suppl): p. S39-S41.
  2. Vilalta, A., et al., Evaluation of spiritual needs of patients with advanced cancer in a palliative care unit. Journal of palliative medicine, 2014. 17(5): p. 592-600.
  3. Seddigh, R., A.-A. Keshavarz-Akhlaghi, and S. Azarnik, Questionnaires Measuring Patients’ Spiritual Needs: A Narrative Literature Review. Iranian journal of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 2016. 10(1): p. e4011-e4011.
  4. Forouzi, M.A., et al., Spiritual Needs and Quality of Life of Patients with Cancer. Indian journal of palliative care, 2017. 23(4): p. 437-444.
  5. Richardson, P., Spirituality, religion and palliative care. Ann Palliat Med, 2014. 3(3): p. 150-9.
  6. Mesquita, A.C., E.C.L. Chaves, and G.A.M. Barros, Spiritual needs of patients with cancer in palliative care: an integrative review. Curr Opin Support Palliat Care, 2017. 11(4): p. 334-340.
  7. Questionnaires. 2010  April 2018]; Available from:
  8. Peterman, A.H., et al., Measuring meaning and peace with the FACIT-spiritual well-being scale: distinction without a difference? Psychological assessment, 2014. 26(1): p. 127-137.