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Spiritual Growth and Decline Among Patients With Cancer

Allison L. Allmon
Benjamin A. Tallman
Elizabeth M. Altmaier
ONF 2013, 40(6), 559-565 DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.559-565

Purpose/Objectives: To investigate spiritual transformation among patients with cancer.

Design: Longitudinal.

Setting: A university medical center in the midwestern United States.

Sample: 47 adult cancer survivors.

Methods: Patients were asked about spirituality, religious and spiritual importance, religious coping, and spiritual gain and decline at baseline as well as nine months post-treatment.

Main Research Variables: Religious importance, religious coping, and spiritual gain or decline.

Findings: Positive religious coping at baseline predicted spiritual growth at the nine-month follow-up point. Spiritual decline was predicted by negative religious importance. A bivariate relationship existed between increased levels of negative religious coping and increased spiritual growth.

Conclusions: Positive religious coping strategies may influence spiritual transformation.

Implications for Nursing: Healthcare providers who support a strengths-based perspective on human functioning may be equipped to perform research on spiritual or religious interventions for patients with cancer.

Knowledge Translation: Greater use of spiritual resources, even if conceptualized as negative religious coping mechanisms or initial spiritual decline, may contribute to increased levels of spiritual growth later. When acting as expert companions, healthcare providers may facilitate spiritual growth by addressing spiritual transformation, creating safe environments for exploring spirituality, becoming familiar with different religious faiths, and seeking appropriate consultation and referrals for patients.

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