The Oncology Care Team
Spiritual Care

Spiritual Care














Spiritual Care is concerned with the deep feelings and beliefs including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others and understandings about the meaning of life that often arise with health concerns and cancer specifically.  Spiritual Care Services provides opportunities for all people to discover, affirm and claim their sources of strength and faith during times of illness, grief, death and bereavement.


" of the body alone cannot be effective if the mind, heart and soul are ignored."[1]


For many people, when you say spiritual, religion is the only thing that comes to mind. Spirituality is concerned with universal issues of purpose and meaning in life and is part of the human essence that seeks to rise above suffering. Religion is only one way of addressing spiritual issues.

All human beings have some kind of spirituality, for it is impossible to live without identifying and finding ways of relating to that which is of central worth and importance to us.[3]

Spiritual care is provided in an interfaith, spiritual capacity with people from all faith traditions, as well those who do not belong to any faith tradition. It is not unusual for conversations to have very little reference to organized religion.

Spiritual Care Services offers support to all patients, their families, and staff.


Scope of practice

  • assess spiritual needs and concerns

  • create a safe space

  • supportive counselling

  • companion

  • name and normalize feelings

  • witness to and acknowledge patient’s story/experience

  • draw on/search for internal wisdom and strength of patient

  • assist in decision making (ethical issues, end-of-life issues, organ donation)

  • explore possibilities of reconciliation

  • offer prayer, reading of holy texts, sacraments, rituals, baptisms/dedications, sweet grass ceremonies

  • refer to internal and external resources

Spiritual Assessment

Serious illness can lead people to reflect on many things and spiritual care can help people with:

  • hope

  • community / relationships in their lives

  • meaning

  • faith

It is through these four domains that spiritual care providers assess a patient’s spiritual health and/or suffering.



What is the patient hoping for?

Has it changed? How?


What are the relational supports for the patient?

How has this illness affected relationships with family, work, friends?


Does the patient believe in a higher power?

How has the disease impacted on the patient’s beliefs?


What has given meaning to the patient’s life?

Does death have any meaning?

As they face death, do they feel that their life counted for something?

Where do they want to spend their energy and time now?


Charlie Randall, 2005

 Spiritual care providers assist and support patients and their families in identifying and communicating their spiritual needs.  They also provide opportunities for them to express their beliefs, values and emotions in  a private setting and to discover, affirm and claim their sources of strenght and faith during times of illness, grief, death and bereavement.


Referral Indicators

  • patient/family request

  • symptoms of distress

  • diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness

  • articulation of existential concerns

  • questions related to end of life decisions

  • dying process, prior to and after death

  • isolation/lack of community

  • reconciliation issues

  • staff support



Spiritual care providers also can provide assistance with:

  • Grief and loss care

    Created by Tinette user of Italian Wikipedia.

  • Support in planning funerals

  • Crisis intervention

  • Conflict resolution

  • Assistance with difficult ethical/moral decisions and dilemmas

  • Referrals to other members of the team

  • Assist with requests for referral to spiritual caregivers from specific faith traditions

  • Upon request; facilitate and lead: prayer, meditation and blessings, reading of Holy texts, administration of sacraments, baptism, dedication, worship, services, observances of religious holidays, memorial services


Spiritual care providers are trained and available to walk with oncology patients as they face what life has set before them.


You are a 23 year old female grad student at Queen's. You are about to defend your thesis and have a dream job lined up in Toronto where you were raised and where your parents and siblings still live. You fiance, whom you plan to marry in the next year, is already working in Toronto.

You've taken a well deserved weekend break from you rthesis and are out with a group of friends at a cottage. Over the weekend you are not feeling yourself and experience increasingly severe headaches and dizziness. By Sunday you have a friend take you to the emerg at KGH.

You are hospitalized and, after a myriad of tests, a doctor has just entered your room and is explaining the results. They have discovered a very aggressive tumour on your brain. The prognosis is poor. You may have only a few months to live.

What do you need?



  • Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education (CAPPE) accredited

  • clinical intra/interpersonal and multi faith/multi-cultural training




Spiritual Care Resources


Canadian Virtual Hospice, information on Spiritual Care


Spiritual and Religious Care at Queen’s, Masters and Certificate programmes


Ontario Multifaith Council (OMC)




"Spirit is a natural dimension of every person. Reflecting on the ancient word Spirit, ’Spirit implies energy and power.’ The word Spirituality goes further and describes an awareness of relationships with all creation, an appreciation of presence and purpose that includes a sense of meaning. Though not true generations ago, a distinction is frequently made today between spirituality and religion, the latter focusing on defined structures, rituals and doctrines. While religion and medicine were virtually inseparable for thousands of years, the advent of science created a chasm between the two. The term spirituality is a contemporary bridge that renews this relationship. Those who provide spiritual care in healthcare settings are often known as chaplains although in some settings they may be described as spiritual care providers."[2]





1. Professional Standards for Spiritual Care Providers. London, Ontario: Spiritual Care Providers Network 1998-2000, VanderCreek, L and Burton L, Eds. "A White Paper: Professional Chaplaincy: Its role and Importance in Healthcare." The Journal of Pastoral Care 55.1(Spring 2001):81-97. 83

2. Professional Chaplaincy: Its Role and Importance In Healthcare. 2001. Eds. Larry VandeCreek and Laurel Burton. accessed March 10, 2008

3. Nelson, James B. and Longfellow, Sandra P. ed. Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection (Louisville, Kentucky:Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), p. 71

All references for this section