The experience of spirituality in the lives of hospice patients

Pamela L. Stephenson, Claire B. Draucker, Donna S. Martsolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


Addressing the spiritual needs of patients is a crucial dimension of holistic healthcare, but perhaps the most neglected. Interpretive phenomenology was used to explore the experience of spirituality in the lives of hospice patients. Semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted with six hospice patients. A four-member interpretive team analyzed the data using the strategies outlined by Diekelmann, Allen, and Tanner (1989). The participants told rich stories about events that occurred throughout their lives. The nature of the stories suggested that the beliefs, values, and experiences that were important to them throughout their lives were also important to them as they were dying. The interpretive team concluded that participants’ spirituality was shown not by how they described their spiritual life, but rather by the way they organized their life narratives. An overall theme of “dying the way you lived” was identified. Two subthemes of “who is in charge” and “connecting and disconnecting” emerged from the data, suggesting that beliefs about control and the pattern of relationships with others, God, and environment give meaning and coherence to the way individuals understand the unfolding of their lives. The findings indicate that providing spiritual care for hospice patients involves forging meaningful connections, respecting the patients’ choices for managing their dying, and eliciting stories about life and death in order to understand their unique and personal spiritual needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hospice and Palliative Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Hospice patients
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing

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