Spiritual Care Research Part 2: Impact on Patients and Healthcare

Spiritual Care Research Part 2: Impact on Patients and Healthcare

When I was a resident in the Pastoral Education Program at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah I did a second residency with an emphasis on surveying research into the efficacy of spiritual care.  I looked over dozens of studies (the bibliography is available here) and wrote up summaries for many of the findings I reviewed.

The attached document provides an executive summary of those findings, followed by a more detailed discussion of key points.  The document is dated now, last updated in 2014, but I hope that it is still useful to anyone working to articulate the cost-to-benefit ratio of spiritual care.  That is why we did this work.

At some point (I hope soon) I will also share a power-point presentation and script to summarize these findings.

Episcopal Community Services was generous enough to provide permission for me to share this online at the end of my 2014 residency.  It has been a busy time since then (ordination, board certification and so on) and I am finally fulfilling my promise to Fr. Lincoln Ure that this material would be generally available.

A few key findings discussed in this document:

  • Patients who get spiritual care are 1.4 to 2.2 times more likely to rate care at the highest levels. (Williams, 2011)
  • The majority of patients say spiritual care is important, but only about 9% say any providers ask about it. Patients whose spiritual needs go unmet are much less happy with their care.  (Astrow, 2007)
  • In the ICU, spiritual care improves satisfaction with both care and decision-making. Studies indicate that exploring spiritual needs, reminiscing and rituals with a clinically trained spiritual care provider in the last 24 hours of life has a large impact on family satisfaction (Wall 2007, Gries 2008, Johnson 2014)
  • Spiritual well-being correlates to and can predict quality of life measures. (Fisch, 2003)
  • Among seriously ill patients, religious activity and spirituality reduce physical symptoms, disability, psychiatric problems, less depression and drinking. (Koenig, 2002)
  • End of life costs increase by between 2 and 3 times when spiritual needs go unmet. (Balboni, 2011)
  • Hospitals who have professional chaplains have fewer ICU deaths and make more effective use of hospice. (Flanelly, 2012)

I hope that this material is helpful.  May creation bless and keep each and every one of you.

Spiritual Care: Impact on Patients and Healthcare (PDF)

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