Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Spiritual Dimension of Patient Care

In a collaborative effort on the subject of the spiritual dimension of patient care, Drs. Christina Puchalski and Sharon K. Hull were joined by Robert Vitillo and Nancy Reller to publish an article in the Journal of Palliative Medicine (Volume 17, Number 6, 2014). The purpose of the article was to present a picture of events surrounding two international conferences that worked toward consensus on approaches to integrate spirituality into healthcare systems with a view to develop strategies to create more humane and compassionate systems of care. Because of the length of the article I am going to provide several quotes that highlight the value of spiritual care. “Data indicate that a focus on spirituality improves patients’ health outcomes, including quality of life. Conversely, negative spiritual and religious beliefs can cause distress and increase the burdens of illness.” These data inform our clinical spiritual care in that a hospice Chaplain approaches a patient with no agenda of his or her own, but actively listens to the patient with discernment for spiritual concerns. It is the patient, not the Chaplain that sets the agenda for the visit. “Too often individuals visiting health care facilities are seen as a disease that needs to be fixed quickly and cheaply rather than as human beings with complex needs, including those of a spiritual nature.” Chaplains often hear patient concerns of feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and anxious (to name but a few). Chaplains engage the patient at the point of pain. “During the 2013 International Consensus Conference, participants also were asked to review a Call to Action that was developed by the Fetzer Institutes Health Advisory Council. The purpose of the Call to Action was to start a platform from which to create a coalition to develop healthcare systems that are spiritual and compassionate.” My response to this: “Welcome to the great world of hospice!” It is hospice that has embraced Dame Cicely Saunders’ concept of total pain and build a system of medical care, social care, and spiritual care around it to alleviate the suffering of humanity at the end-of-life. I found this article energizing and encouraging because this is who we are as hospice.

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