Spiritual Issues of Family Members in a Pancreatic Cancer Chat Room

Marie T. Nolan

Mary B. Hodgin

Sharon J. Olsen

JoAnn Coleman

Pat K. Sauter

Deborah Baker

Cathy Stanfield

Amy Emerling

Ralph H. Hruban

ONF 2007, 33(2), 239-244. DOI: 10.1188/06.ONF.239-244

Purpose/Objectives: To describe spiritual issues addressed by users of a pancreatic cancer informational Web site.

Design: Qualitative, descriptive.

Setting: The patient and family chat room of Johns Hopkins Hospital's pancreatic cancer Web site.

Sample: 600 postings on the pancreatic cancer Web site.

Methods: Identification of categories and themes in Web postings using the constant comparison method of content analysis.

Main Research Variables: Spirituality, relationship of the person posting a message (poster) to the person with cancer.

Findings: Relationship of the poster to the person with pancreatic cancer was explicit in 68% (n = 410) of the 600 postings, and 83% of those 410 postings indicated that the poster was a family member. Issues of spirituality appeared in 19% (n = 114) of the 600 postings and addressed four themes: spiritual convergence, reframing suffering, hope, and acceptance of the power of God and eternal life. Six percent of postings were by family members reporting on the death of their loved ones, suggesting that the site also served a bereavement function.

Conclusions: Family members of patients with pancreatic cancer sought and received spiritual comfort in a variety of forms in an Internet-based cancer chat room.

Implications for Nursing: Nurse developers of cancer information Web sites should periodically assess how the sites are being used and apply the information to the refinement of the sites to better meet user needs. Further study is needed to develop and evaluate cancer Web sites as an evolving medium for providing spiritual support to family members of patients with life-threatening forms of cancer.

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