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Spiritual Needs of Patients With Cancer and Family Caregivers

Taylor, Elizabeth Johnston PhD, RN


The purpose of this descriptive, cross-sectional, qualitative study was to describe the spiritual needs experienced in living with cancer from the perspective of patients with cancer and family caregivers. The sample included 28 African American and Euro-American patients with cancer and family caregivers receiving care from inpatient and outpatient units at two metropolitan hospitals in the southwestern United States. In-depth, tape-recorded, semistructured interviews were analyzed using the process of data reduction, data display, and verification. Seven categories of identified spiritual needs included needs associated with relating to an Ultimate Other; the need for positivity, hope, and gratitude; the need to give and receive love; the need to review beliefs, the need to have meaning; and needs related to religiosity and preparation for death. Informants responded with varying levels of awareness of personal spiritual needs. Caregivers were observed to have spiritual needs similar to those of patients. The findings of this study will inform nurses as they assess and document spiritual needs.

From the School of Nursing, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California.

Funding for this study was provided by Oncology Nursing Foundation/Glaxo Wellcome Oncology/HIV Products Research grants.

Corresponding author: Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, PhD, RN, 2133 Lorain Road, San Marino, CA 91108 (e-mail to

Accepted for publication April 14, 2003.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.