OBJECTIVE: To examine perceptions and experiences regarding providing spiritual care at the end of life of elderly care physicians practising in nursing homes in the Netherlands, and factors associated with spiritual care provision.
METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was sent to a representative sample of 642 elderly care physicians requesting information about their last patient who died and the spiritual care they provided. We compared their general perception of spiritual care with spiritual and other items abstracted from the literature and variables associated with the physicians' provision of spiritual care. Self-reported reasons for providing spiritual care were analysed with qualitative content analysis.
RESULTS: The response rate was 47.2%. Almost half (48.4%) provided spiritual end-of-life care to the last resident they cared for. Half (51.8%) identified all 15 spiritual items, but 95.4% also included psychosocial items in their perception of spirituality and 49.1% included other items. Physicians who included more non-spiritual items reported more often that they provided spiritual care, as did more religious physicians and those with additional training in palliative care. Reasons for providing spiritual care included a request by the resident or the relatives, resident's religiousness, fear of dying and involvement of a healthcare chaplain.
CONCLUSION: Most physicians perceived spirituality as a broad concept and this increased self-reported spiritual caregiving. Religious physicians and those trained in palliative care may experience fewer barriers to providing spiritual care. Additional training in reflecting upon the physician's own perception of spirituality and training in multidisciplinary spiritual caregiving may contribute to the quality of end-of-life care for nursing home residents.