Helping Better Address Spiritual and Cultural Needs of Patients in the Palliative Home Care

Anne Charpentier-Hébert, Master’s Student, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), 2021 CSA Group Graduate Scholarship Recipient

In 2019, CSA Group launched its Graduate Scholarship Program to support students enrolled in a Master’s program whose research is related to standards. We want to introduce the recipients of the 2021 scholarship and tell you how their research can contribute to the advancement of standards.

Profile picture of Anne Charpentier-Hébert, recipient of 2021 CSA Group Graduate Scholarship.The Act Respecting End-of-Life Care that “ensures that persons at the end of life can have access to quality care and support to suit their situation”[1] came into effect in Quebec in 2015. The implementation of the Act brought new requirements for health care professionals in terms of providing palliative care, but also for accompanying, guiding, and supporting patients and families through this difficult period. Are nurses well prepared to take on the task, particularly when providing home-based palliative care?

That is the question that got Anne Charpentier-Hébert, Master’s student in the Religion Sciences Program – Studies on Death and Dying concentration at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), interested in this work. Being a certified nurse herself, Anne knew there wasn’t much training during her studies focused on accompanying people at the end of life. And pretty much none covered their spiritual, religious, or cultural needs.

From her nursing experience, Anne also understood how important it was for nurses to be well equipped to do their jobs. She set her research goal to help develop a training program that could support health care professionals in developing skills needed in spiritual care and needs assessment at the final stage of life.

Anne started her work by interviewing nurses practicing in palliative home care. She wanted to hear about their experiences working with dying people and their families, how they approached discussions about spirituality, grief, and death, and how they had built their expertise over the years. She also wanted to know what the needs of these nurses were and what type of training they would find useful.

Anne plans to use this information to perform a training needs analysis and identify areas that are currently not covered in nurses’ training. She imagines a standardized program to ensure patients with different cultural and spiritual backgrounds are served most professionally and empathically. She would like to see this type of training offered early on as one of the first nursing courses, then continued to build on the fundamentals year after year. Anne believes integrating life skills related to working with dying patients and, more broadly, communication is equally important as learning focused on medication, procedures, and physical techniques. She sees empathy and listening as life skills that take time to develop rather than a practice that can be mastered quickly.

I am really grateful for the support from CSA Group. It helps my project to be taken seriously. And it helps me connect with nursing networks in Quebec and Canada and share my contribution to developing best practices.

– Anne Charpentier-Hébert, Master’s Student, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

Collecting and promoting best practices in palliative care, such training could also benefit other health care professionals, including doctors, who work with dying people. More and more, palliative care is delivered at home, and that aspect needs to be recognized throughout the training as well.

Professor Marie-Andrée Roy, Anne’s supervisor, believes this research is significant on multiple levels. It will help better equip nurses in their profession, as spiritual support is officially integrated into their tasks and job descriptions. At the same time, it will help develop tools supporting nurses in acquiring greater confidence in their skills and ability to intervene. And underlining the importance of home care highlights the need for proper budget allocations in the future.

I salute the fact that it was a nurse who saw the gap and decided to study this question. I myself could not have thought of this research in this way because I do not have the field experience of a nurse. I think she showed real thought leadership in doing this.

– Marie-Andrée Roy, Ph.D., Professor at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)

Collecting the results of her work, Anne plans to share them with her peers at various conferences, through the College of Nurses, nursing associations, and other organizations providing training for health care professionals. Anne hopes that her research will help improve nursing competency standards and related training for the delivery of palliative care services in a home-based environment. Collaborating with CSA Group made Anne realize how important such standards are for delivering the care people deserve at the end of life.

Learn more about CSA Group’s Graduate Scholarship Program.

[1] Act Respecting End-of-Life Care, Government of Quebec, https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-system-and-services/end-of-life-care/act-respecting-end-of-life-care


June 16, 2022