Objective: Although spirituality as it relates to patients is
gaining increasing attention, less is known about how health care
professionals (HCP) experience spirituality personally or collectively in
the workplace. This study explores the collective spirituality of an
interdisciplinary palliative care team, by studying how individuals felt
about their own spirituality, whether there was a shared sense of a team
spirituality, how spirituality related to the care the team provided to
patients and whether they felt that they provided spiritual care.
Methods: A qualitative autoethnographic approach was used.
The study was conducted in a 10-bed Tertiary Palliative Care Unit (TPCU)
in a large acute-care referral hospital and cancer center.
Interdisciplinary team members of the TPCU were invited to participate in
one-to-one interviews and/or focus groups. Five interviews and three
focus groups were conducted with a total of 20 participants.
Results: Initially participants struggled to define
spirituality. Concepts of spirituality relating to integrity, wholeness,
meaning, and personal journeying emerged. For many, spirituality is
inherently relational. Others acknowledged transcendence as an element of
spirituality. Spirituality was described as being wrapped in caring and
often manifests in small daily acts of kindness and of love, embedded
within routine acts of caring. Palliative care served as a catalyst for
team members' own spiritual journeys. For some participants,
palliative care represented a spiritual calling. A collective spirituality
stemming from common goals, values, and belonging surfaced.
Significance of results: This was the first known study that
focused specifically on the exploration of a collective spirituality. The
culture of palliative care seems to foster spiritual reflection among
health care professionals both as individuals and as a whole. While
spirituality was difficult to describe, it was a shared experience often
tangibly present in the provision of care on all levels.