Parents’ spiritual and religious needs in young oncology
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Parents’ spiritual and religious needs in young oncology

Kathryn Darby Chaplain, Birmingham Children’s Hospital
Paul Nash Senior chaplain, Birmingham Children’s Hospital
Sally Nash Director, Midlands Centre for Youth Ministry, St John’s College, Nottingham

Kathryn Darby and colleagues present findings from interviews and focus groups that explored parents’ experiences and informed staff about support that should be offered to families

Aim To identify the spiritual and religious needs of young people with cancer. This article is a summary of findings regarding parents, which are significant in providing holistic care.

Method Semi-structured interviews were conducted with young people and their parents. Staff participated in two focus groups. Data were analysed thematically.

Findings Spiritual needs included the value of story sharing, cumulative effect of loss, importance of support 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 parents’ and patients’ religious needs, and changing religious needs.

Conclusion Complicated grief and other expressions of loss may be mitigated by: helping 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 that affect the way parents interpret illness.

Cancer Nursing Practice. 13, 4, 16-22. doi: 10.7748/cnp2014.


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by the oncology department at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which paid Midlands Centre for Youth Ministry for Sally Nash’s work on the research. Kathryn Darby and Paul Nash are employees of Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Received: 17 February 2014

Accepted: 11 March 2014

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