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Pastoral Care at end-of-life: An Introduction

An introduction to the specialist field of pastoral care in end of life situations which may arise in a number of settings: in the home through community palliative care services; general medical wards and Intensive Care Units in hospitals; in specialist palliative care wards or hospices; and increasingly in aged care facilities. It is important and presumed that spiritual care providers will have some background in the theology (appropriate to their faith community) of death, dying, meaning and hope etc. This unit focuses on the practice of working with people in this set including the capacity to address issues which are potentially religious in expression in a way that can also assist the non-religious person.

Lecturer: Refer to Timetable
Offered: Refer to Timetable

Postgraduate: Level 8


Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Articulate a clear understanding of the unique issues that arise when working with people receiving  end of life and palliative care and their family members in a variety of settings;
  2. Identify and integrate within reflective practice awareness of their own responses to a terminal illness in others and demonstrate an appropriate understanding of self-care;
  3. Describe and illustrate in practice reflection the tools required for working with the strong emotions and the cognitive disruptions often associated with dying and the death of loved ones;
  4. Demonstrate an informed  model of reflection on some of the processes and spiritual and theological decisions associated with preparing to die;
  5. Describe, and integrate in practice, pastoral responses appropriate to the spiritual needs of the dying.


Book Review     1,000 words   20%
Case Study        2,500 words   40%
Verbatim and reflection     2,500 words   40%

Select Bibliography:

*Recommended reading

Anderson, M. Sacred Dying: Creating Rituals for the End of Life. New York: Marlowe & Company, 2003
Cobb, M., Puchalski, C.M., Rumbold, B. Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012
Circirelli, V. Older Adults’ Views on Death. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2003
Corke, C. Saving Life or Prolonging Death: Finding the way in a world of medical technology. York, UK Erudite Medical Books, 2010
Craddock, F., Goldsmith, D. and Goldsmith.Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012
Davey, J, and Ellis S. Counselling Skills in Palliative Care. Buckingham UK: Open University Press, 2000
DeSpelder, L.A., DeSpelder, A.L. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying (8th edition). USA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2010
Gilbert, P (Ed) Spirituality and End of Life Care: A handbook for service users, carers and staff wishing to bring a spiritual dimension to palliative care. London, UK: Pavilion Publishing & Media Ltd. 2013
Kellehear, A. Death and Dying in Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2000
Lair, G.S. Counselling the Terminally Ill: Sharing the Journey. Washington USA: Taylor and Francis, 1996
MacKinlay, E. (Ed). Aging, Spirituality and Palliative Care. Binghampton USA: The Haworth Pastoral Press, 2006.{Co-published simultaneously as Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging Volume 18, Numbers 2,3 and 4 2006}.
MacKinlay, E., Trevitt, C. Finding Meaning in the Experience of Dementia: The place of spiritual reminiscence work. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012
Musgrave, B., and McGettigan, N. Spiritual and psychological aspects of illness: Dealing with sickness, loss, dying and death. New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2010
Nolan, S. Spiritual Care at End of Life: The Chaplain as Hopeful Presence. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012
Roose-Evans, J. Passages of the Soul: Rediscovering the Importance of Rituals in Everyday Life. Dorset UK: Element, 1995
Rumbold, B. (Ed). Spirituality and Palliative Care: Social and Pastoral Perspectives. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2002
Schipani, D., & Bueckert, L (eds) Interfaith spiritual care: Understandings and practices. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2009.