Institute for End of Life Care Education


Spirituality is a relationship with self, nature, God or a higher being.

Spirituality provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose in life and is expressed in religious practices, art or nature. Spirituality is a relationship with self, nature, God or a higher being. Serious illness may challenge or affect hope. Dying does not inevitably bring despair. People may develop new and deeper hopes at the end of life. Pastoral care and religious organizations may be helpful to dying persons and their families.

Religion is a set of beliefs, practices and language that characterizes a community and is a search for meaning on a particular way. Your faith community may include a church, temple, synagogue or other site as a place of worship. Spirituality and religion can offer people hope and meaning at the time of serious illness. Religious needs involve making peace in one's relationship with God. Religious rituals may provide a source of comfort and support to the dying patient and their families.

Some examples of religious rituals are:

Most hospitals and hospice have pastoral care available. Hospice or hospital chaplains come from a variety of religious backgrounds and offer support to people regardless of religious affiliation. Many chaplains have completed clinical pastoral education programs approved by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, National Association of Catholic Chaplains or national Association of Jewish Chaplains. A religious leader of your own faith may also visit in the hospital or hospice.


Association for Clinical Pastoral Education
This professional organization represents many different faith and cultural traditions and is committed to advancing theological education in any setting where ministry is being practiced.

American Association of Pastoral Counselors
This association provides theological, spiritual, ethical and clinical counseling and information about locating a clinical counselor near you.

George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health
This university-based organization works to provide a more compassionate system of health care and focuses on educational and clinical issues related to spirituality and health. Its founder and director is Dr. Christina M. Puchalski, who has published on spirituality and health care in journals, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Palliative Medicine and Clinics in Geriatric Medicine.

National Association of Catholic Chaplains
This professional organization is for certified chaplains and clinical pastoral educators who participate in the healing mission of Jesus Christ. It provides standards, advocacy, education and professional development.

National Association of Jewish Chaplains
This professional organization is for rabbis, cantors and other Jewish professionals functioning as chaplains. It provides services and resources to the Jewish community and general community on issues of pastoral and spiritual care based on Jewish traditions and services.

Article reference on spirituality

Koenig, H.C. (2002). "A Commentary: The Role of Religion and Spirituality at the End of Life"; The Gerontologist, 42, 20-23.


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Through a transformational Catholic, Jesuit education, Marquette University College of Nursing prepares nurse leaders to promote health, healing and social justice for all people through clinical practice and development of nursing knowledge.