How chaplains can improve palliative care: 5 things to know

Many of the most supported palliative care programs struggle to provide spiritual care for palliative care patients, an issue that has become more significant as patients have increasingly diverse religious beliefs and palliative care has moved to the outpatient setting, according to a Medscape report.

The report referenced a recent pilot study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management to examine the impact of chaplains on patients who need palliative care.

Here are five things to know about the report.

1. The pilot study recruited 31 patients with advanced cancer to evaluate how chaplain-delivered spiritual care may work and be accepted in an outpatient palliative care setting.

2. To assess patients' spiritual needs, researchers used the Spiritual Assessment and Intervention Mode, which says all humans have three core spiritual needs: a need for meaning and direction, to feel self-worth and belonging to community and to love and be loved, including seeking reconciliation for broken relationships when needed.

3. Chaplains determined patients' unmet needs in these three core areas and created plans to meet those needs during three scheduled meetings. Researchers assessed patient outcomes in a pre-/post-test design using tools that indicate patient symptoms, such as spirituality, coping, dignity, depression and anxiety.

4. When assessing patients from before to after the intervention, the study found increases in several aspects of patients' spiritual well-being, which included "faith" and "religious coping."

5. "Spirituality is a key dimension of quality palliative care, yet palliative care programs need models of care to integrate spiritual care into standard practice," the Medscape report author wrote. "As with all domains of palliative care, there is also a need to generate evidence supporting clinical practice."

More articles on patient engagement: 
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5 reasons Americans fail to get regular mental health checkups
Cancer patients want say in where they die: 4 things to know

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