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Collective soul: The spirituality of an interdisciplinary palliative care team


Objective: Although spirituality as it relates to patients is gaining increasing attention, less is known about how health care professionals (HCP) experience spirituality personally or collectively in the workplace. This study explores the collective spirituality of an interdisciplinary palliative care team, by studying how individuals felt about their own spirituality, whether there was a shared sense of a team spirituality, how spirituality related to the care the team provided to patients and whether they felt that they provided spiritual care.

Methods: A qualitative autoethnographic approach was used. The study was conducted in a 10-bed Tertiary Palliative Care Unit (TPCU) in a large acute-care referral hospital and cancer center. Interdisciplinary team members of the TPCU were invited to participate in one-to-one interviews and/or focus groups. Five interviews and three focus groups were conducted with a total of 20 participants.

Results: Initially participants struggled to define spirituality. Concepts of spirituality relating to integrity, wholeness, meaning, and personal journeying emerged. For many, spirituality is inherently relational. Others acknowledged transcendence as an element of spirituality. Spirituality was described as being wrapped in caring and often manifests in small daily acts of kindness and of love, embedded within routine acts of caring. Palliative care served as a catalyst for team members' own spiritual journeys. For some participants, palliative care represented a spiritual calling. A collective spirituality stemming from common goals, values, and belonging surfaced.

Significance of results: This was the first known study that focused specifically on the exploration of a collective spirituality. The culture of palliative care seems to foster spiritual reflection among health care professionals both as individuals and as a whole. While spirituality was difficult to describe, it was a shared experience often tangibly present in the provision of care on all levels.

Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Shane Sinclair, Spiritual Care Services, Foothills Medical Centre, 1403 29 Street NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 2T9, Canada. E-mail:
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