Background: Spiritual care is an important element of holistic care but has received little attention within palliative care in end-stage heart failure.
Aims: To identify the spiritual needs and spiritual support preferences of end-stage heart failure patients/carers and to develop spiritual support guidelines locally.
Method: Semi-structured interviews (totalling 47) at 3-monthly intervals up to 1 year with 16 end-stage heart failure patients/carers. Focus group/consultation with stakeholders.
Results: Participants were struggling with spiritual/existential concerns alongside the physical and emotional challenges of their illness. These related to: love/belonging; hope; coping; meaning/purpose; faith/belief; and the future. As a patient's condition deteriorated, the emphasis shifted from 'fighting' the illness to making the most of the time left. Spiritual concerns could have been addressed by: having someone to talk to; supporting carers; and staff showing sensitivity/taking care to foster hope. A spiritual support home visiting service would be valued.
Conclusions: Our sample experienced significant spiritual needs and would have welcomed spiritual care within the palliative care package.
Implications for nursing management: Nurse managers could play a key role in developing this service and in leading further research to evaluate the provision of such a service in terms of its value to patients and other benefits including improved quality of life, spiritual wellbeing, reduced loneliness/isolation and a possible reduction in hospital admissions.
Keywords: heart failure; palliative care; qualitative research; spiritual care; spiritual needs; spirituality.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.