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Spirituality and Life-Threatening Illness: A Phenomenologic Study

Jeffrey A. Albaugh
ONF 2003, 30(4), 593-598 DOI: 10.1188/03.ONF.593-598

Purpose/Objectives: To examine the lived experience of individuals when confronted with a life-threatening disease.

Research Approach: Qualitative, phenomenologic using Giorgi's approach.

Setting: Patients' homes in the Midwest.

Participants: Five women and two men, aged 44-74 years, who had a variety of diagnoses, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, and myocardial infarction.

Methodologic Approach: Subjects were recruited through flyers posted at support groups and religious establishments and by word of mouth.

Main Research Variables: Willingness to volunteer to share their stories.

Findings: Participants described how their spirituality provided comfort throughout their journey, strength in facing the life-threatening illness, many blessings despite the hardship of the illness, and trust in a higher power to see them through the journey. All participants described a sense of meaning in their lives throughout their experience.

Conclusions: Spirituality greatly affected patients' journeys through a life-threatening illness and provided a sense of meaning despite the illness.

Interpretation: Nurses need to acknowledge patients' spirituality and, in turn, assist patients in meeting their spiritual needs. By understanding the study participants' experiences, nurses can better support their patients, provide time and space for spiritual practices, and honor patients' spiritual journeys.

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