Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Palliat Support Care. 2009 Dec;7(4):415-22. doi: 10.1017/S1478951509990423.

What are the core elements of oncology spiritual care programs?

Author information

Tom Baker Cancer Centre, Calgary, Canada.



Tending to the spiritual needs of patients has begun to be formally recognized by professional spiritual care providers, health care councils, and health delivery systems over the last 30 years. Recognition of these programs has coincided with evidence-based research on the effect of spirituality on health. Palliative care has served as a forerunner to an integrated professional spiritual care approach, recognizing the importance of addressing the spiritual needs of the dying from its inauguration within Western medicine almost 50 years ago. Oncology programs have also begun to recognize the importance of spirituality to patients along the cancer continuum, especially those who are approaching the end of life. Although standards and best practice guidelines have been established and incorporated into practice, little is known about the actual factors affecting the practice of spiritual care programs or professional chaplains working within an oncology setting.


Participant observation and interactive interviews occurred at five cancer programs after we conducted a literature search.


This study identified underlying organizational challenges, cultural and professional issues, academic program development challenges, administrative duties, and therapeutic interventions that determined the success of oncology spiritual care programs in practice.


Although spiritual care services have developed as a profession and become recognized as a service within oncology and palliative care, organizational and operational issues were underrecognized yet significant factors in the success of oncology spiritual care programs. Spiritual care programs that were centrally located within the cancer care center, reported and provided guidance to senior leaders, reflected a multifaith approach, and had an academic role were better resourced, utilized more frequently, and seen to be integral members of an interdisciplinary care team than those services who did not reflect these characteristics.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Cambridge University Press
    Loading ...
    Support Center