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Many patients wish to discuss spiritual issues with nurses. Previous work has shown that nurses do so infrequently. A mixed methods research approach was used to investigate the perceptions of spiritual care of nurses and patients. Fifty-one nurses and 75 patients of five hospital departments of a non-academic hospital in the Netherlands were surveyed in 2007. We recorded the nurses’ perception of patient wishes, perceived relevance of spiritual care for patients, spiritual care provided in practice, and their evaluation of the spiritual care provided for the patients. With regard to the patients the nurses cared for, we recorded their satisfaction with the information and experiences of spiritual care provided by the nurses. Furthermore, semi-structured qualitative interviews with eight nurses examined the nurses’ perceptions of spiritual care including perceived barriers and facilitators of spiritual care giving. The nurses generally perceived spiritual care as important. The quantitative and qualitative research indicated that time to listen, availability, empathic skills, openness to other opinions, and a good relationship of trust were important facilitators. Fortyone per cent of the nurses said that few patients received sufficient attention to their spiritual needs. Patients also experienced limitations in the support for and registration of their spiritual needs. Both nurses and patients acknowledged shortcomings in the provision of spiritual care. Even though some issues may be improved relatively easily, such as registering needs, in practice giving spiritual care is complex, as it requires being available and building a relationship with the patient.
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