Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion, Department of Preventive & Social Medicine, Te Tari Hauora Tūmatanui, Dunedin School of Medicine, Te Kuri Hauora O Ōtepoti
A 62-year-old New Zealand professor, and self-confessed atheist, who was terminally ill with cancer, said to me, “I think it’s important, but especially important in the situation I’m in. It
would be very difficult if I didn’t have any sense of spirituality”.
In the New Zealand context, our Ministry of Health suggests:
“It is essential that all staff working in cancer treatment services have a basic understanding of the spiritual needs of people with cancer, possess the skills to assess those needs and know how to go about contacting spiritual caregivers when required. Training specific to the cultural and spiritual needs of Māori is essential.” (Ministry of Health, 2010)
As social workers, you know much of this already, but like other areas of in-service professional development, it is worth reminding ourselves about the spiritual dimension of the cancer experience and how we might attend to it. This presentation will offer a framework to understand spirituality in terms of the zeitgeist, our world views, definitions and evidence. It will consider spiritual needs and care and suggest that we inevitably affect our clients’ spiritual wellbeing. Finally, it will provide some approaches to spiritual care that address peoples spiritual needs in an ethical, patient/clientled way, and help to build on your spiritual care toolbox
Dr Richard Egan is the Director of the ‘Cancer Society NZ Research Collaboration’ and co-director of the ‘Social and Behavioural Research Unit”, Department of Preventive & Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago
His background includes five years as a mental health promoter in a Public Health Unit and five years secondary school teaching. Richard’s Master’s thesis examined spirituality in New
Zealand state schools, and his PhD thesis explored spirituality in end-of-life care. He has qualifications in theology, English literature, religious studies, and public health.
Richard is a past-president of the New Zealand Public Health Association and past Vice-Chair on the Board of the Health Promotion Forum of New Zealand. He is also an Honorary
Research Consultant for Meaningful Aging Australia, a Global Network for Spirituality & Health members, and he works with Hospice NZ on spirituality matters.
Sarah (wife), Benji (son, aged eleven) and Milo (dog) remind Richard about ‘what matters most’.