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What Spirituality Means for Patients and Families in Health Care


This research focuses on the spiritual care experiences of patients and families at a hospital in Australia. Twenty-four patients and 10 family members were interviewed. Results indicate the importance of relatedness: being treated as a person, reminded of your capabilities and conversations about what matters. Maintaining contact with friends and family, sustaining religious and spiritual practices, music therapy and pet therapy were also significant and contact with the natural world and shared activities. The results indicate the importance of spirituality offered through pastoral care, and that all those involved in health care can contribute to the spiritually nurturing environment that reinforces healing.

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This research would not have been possible without the significant support of Lynda Wyles and her pastoral care team—particularly Annie Ainslie and volunteers Frank and Ronnie Graham as well as the patients and families who participated in the interviews: many thanks to them all.

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Correspondence to Fiona Gardner.

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Conflict of interest

Fiona Gardner, Heather Tan and Bruce Rumbold declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

Ethics approval was granted by both St John of God and La Trobe University (reference 973 and Gardner-973, respectively). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Gardner, F., Tan, H. & Rumbold, B. What Spirituality Means for Patients and Families in Health Care. J Relig Health 59, 195–203 (2020).

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  • Spirituality and health care
  • Patient and family experience of spirituality in health
  • Roles in spirituality in health care