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Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care to End-of-Life in Canada: Alleviation of Suffering Open Access


Other title
Spiritual care
bereavement care
Type of item
Degree grantor
St. Stephen's College
Author or creator
Elaine Greta MacInnis
Supervisor and department
Rev. Dr. Peter Barnes
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Catherine Cornutt
Dr. Leslie Gardner
Dr. Kristine Lund
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Ministry
Degree level
This project/dissertation began with the question: Is it possible to alleviate or diminish a person’s pain and suffering in the transitional space from the time of the diagnosis of a life-threatening illness throughout the illness trajectory until death, and his or her family’s subsequent period of bereavement? The question evolved from my work as a Hospital Chaplain on the oncology and palliative care units witnessing various ways illness and suffering lead one into the spiritual domain where questions about God and life’s meaning or purpose emerge. The focus of the study took the form of a two-year qualitative research project with staff, patients, family members, and friends who commented on their perceptions and/or experiences within the health care system identified on the “Continuum of Palliative Care” [© The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association]. The analysis revealed that when serious illness arises in the life of an individual, it is usually accompanied by suffering. Suffering does not affect just the person experiencing illness; illness is a family affair and suffering is pervasively present, yet not always recognized. Spirituality has been found to play a key role in health and illness; however, the spiritual domain is often neglected, overlooked, or forgotten. Health care teams need to be prepared to respond with sensitivity to dying patients and their families; identify spiritual needs /concerns; incorporate compassionate interventions to alleviate or diminish suffering, foster hope and healing to improve the quality of care to end of life, and offer bereavement care after the death. This research project also developed into personal work. The journey involved coming to an understanding, not only of her husband’s terminal diagnosis but her own journey with God and functioning in health care ministry as a Christian exemplifying respect, love, and compassion for patients, their families, and staff of all faith traditions.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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