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Interview with Dr. Barry Quinn: How to pay attention to spiritual pain

Barry Quinn

Dr. Barry Quinn is a specialist for end of life care. Together with colleagues from Europe, he investigates different aspects of pain among patients suffering from stages of advanced cancer. This includes physical, social, emotional and spiritual pain. Nurses everywhere seem to agree that much more could be done to manage pain in cancer patients. For instance, spiritual pain is often overlooked in the care of cancer patients. Nurses and doctors tend to shy away from the notion of spiritual pain, or as Viktor Frankl would call it, the search for meaning. Spirit, Dr. Quinn explains, is anything that gives a person’s life depth and meaning – their beliefs and values. In his experience, people with spiritual pain are not looking for answers from their caregivers, but they are looking for people to take the journey with them. According to Dr. Quinn, nurses and doctors have an important role to play in this journey; but to be a good companion it is necessary for the caregivers to know their own believe systems. Dr. Barry Quinn emphasizes that one of the things that people with cancer have taught him is that clinical skills are not enough. Especially at the end of life, care nurses and doctors need to move beyond the biomedical model and embrace the biopsychosocial model.

Dr. Barry Quinn works at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK.

This interview was recorded at EONS 2016 which took place in Dublin on October 17-18, 2016.

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