Strengthening the spiritual domain in palliative care through a listening consultation service by spiritual caregivers in Dutch PaTz-groups: An evaluation study

Hanna T. Klop, Ian Koper, Bart P.M. Schweitzer, Esli Jongen, Bregje D. Onwuteaka-Philipsen

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Background: Palliative care should be holistic, but spiritual issues are often overlooked. General practitioners and nurses working together in PaTz-groups (palliative home care groups) consider spiritual issues in palliative care to be relevant, but experience barriers in addressing spiritual issues and finding spiritual caregivers. This study evaluates the feasibility and perceived added value of a listening consultation service by spiritual caregivers in primary palliative care. Methods: From December 2018 until September 2019, we piloted a listening consultation service in which spiritual caregivers joined 3 PaTz-groups whose members referred patients or their relatives with spiritual care needs to them. Evaluation occurred through (i) monitoring of the implementation, (ii) in-depth interviews with patients (n = 5) and involved spiritual caregivers (n = 5), (iii) short group interviews in 3 PaTz-groups (17 GPs, 10 nurses and 3 palliative consultants), and (iv) questionnaires filled out by the GP after each referral, and by the spiritual caregiver after each consultation. Data was analysed thematically and descriptively. Results: Consultations mostly took place on appointment at the patients home instead of originally intended walk-in consultation hours. Consultations were most often with relatives (72%), followed by patients and relatives together (17%) and patients (11%). Relatives also had more consecutive consultations (mean 4.1 compared to 2.2 for patients). Consultations were on existential and relational issues, loss, grief and identity were main themes. Start-up of the referrals took more time and effort than expected. In time, several GPs of each PaTz-group referred patients to the spiritual caregiver. In general, consultations and joint PaTz-meetings were experienced as of added value. All patients and relatives as well as several GPs and nurses experienced more attention for and awareness of the spiritual domain. Patients and relatives particularly valued professional support of spiritual caregivers, as well as recognition of grief as an normal aspect of life. Conclusions: If sufficient effort is given to implementation, listening consultation services can be a good method for PaTz-groups to find and cooperate with spiritual caregivers, as well as for integrating spiritual care in primary palliative care. This may strengthen care in the spiritual domain, especially for relatives who are mourning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number92
JournalBMC palliative care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020


  • Consultations
  • General practitioner
  • Nurses
  • Palliative care
  • Primary care
  • Spiritual care
  • Spiritual caregiver

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