Impressions of interfaith chaplain’s activities among patients in a palliative care unit: A semi-structured interview-based qualitative study

Yusuke Hiratsuka, Maho Aoyama, Taiko Kaneta, Kento Masukawa, Keita Tagami, Mitsunori Miyashita, Akira Inoue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Providing spiritual care in light of a patient’s religious and/or spiritual background can help improve the quality of end-of-life care. Rinsho-shukyo-shi is a Japanese interfaith chaplain who provides religious and spiritual care to patients. In this study, we qualitatively explore the impressions of patients in a palliative care unit of the activities of an interfaith chaplain in a hospital in Japan. The authors used semi-structured interviews carried out by a male nurse experienced in qualitative and quantitative research in palliative care. The male nurse asked only a few predetermined questions in the interviews, which were conducted from January 19 to December 26, 2018. The interviewees were 15 patients diagnosed with advanced cancer (five men and 10 women; aged 53-81 years), and they were admitted to the palliative care unit of Tohoku University Hospital (the hospital has no religious affiliation). Patients who had spoken to the interfaith chaplain at the hospital at least twice were included in the study. The interviews were digitally audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed. Three main themes were identified through thematic analysis. Resistance varied across patients; no patient felt resistance to the intervention by, or to the presence of, the interfaith chaplain once he/she had spoken with him. Opinions about the interfaith chaplain also varied, with 10 patients claiming that his role was necessary for end-of-life care and beneficial for the chaplain himself. Finally, the patients’ religious beliefs varied widely. In conclusion, the interfaith chaplain is deemed helpful by the interviewed patients in relieving their anxieties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-96
Number of pages6
JournalTohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Advanced cancer
  • Interfaith chaplain
  • Palliative care
  • Religious care
  • Spiritual care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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