The missing link in cancer care

Donor-funded Spiritual Distress Study at St John of God Murdoch Hospital.

27 Jun 2022

Marie Condon nurse unit manager of the cancer centre

Spiritual distress is a condition experienced by many patients and carers following a cancer diagnosis. This condition can be all encompassing and difficult to articulate for the people experiencing it, and is known to cause feelings of alienation, helplessness, and hopelessness.

Evidence supports the need for health care professionals to develop ethical and compassionate relationships with patients and carers, and where necessary, provide support and evidence-based interventions in response to spiritual distress.

Thanks to generous donor funding, Professor Leanne Monterosso and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have been able to commence testing an evidence based, six-week group therapy program at St John of God Murdoch Hospital. The program began in October 2021, with participants being self-nominated Cancer Centre patients and their carers who had reported spiritual distress.

“Our program is based on previously tested group psychotherapy program, using a psycho-spiritual-mindfulness based cognitive behavioural model,” said Professor Monterosso.

“We commenced by running one six-week group therapy program which has been completed, and we will continue to follow-up participants for three months to determine how the program has achieved our aim of longer-term effectiveness,”

According to Professor Monterosso, initial feedback from participants in the study has been overwhelmingly positive, and indicates they view this form of support as “the missing link” in their cancer treatment.

“We believe this type of treatment should be offered to all patients and their carers, to help manage the often debilitating impact of a cancer diagnosis and treatment on emotional and spiritual wellbeing.”

Philanthropic funding through St John of God Foundation has also enabled the expansion of this study for a further two years beyond the initial pilot program, which will support the future vision for the program to be available for cancer patients and their carers across St John of God Hospitals and Services.

We are incredibly grateful for the generous donor support that will enable St John of God Murdoch Hospital to continue to offer this important program to Cancer Centre patients and their carers, and to support them on their cancer journey.