Making the Case: For Spiritual Care in Palliative Care


According to the National Palliative Care Registry, even as the number of palliative care programs grow, 44% of programs with complete interdisciplinary teams still report only a 0.5 FTE chaplain. Of the 56% of programs without a complete interdisciplinary team, 70% report no chaplain FTE. Forty percent of palliative care teams with a chaplain fund these positions through "in kind" or volunteer staffing models, while the remaining 60% are funded directly through the palliative care budget.  

With the great opportunities for growth in palliative care chaplain staffing, the Coalition not only supports spiritual care as an essential component of quality palliative care but also advocates for palliative care chaplain staff positions to provide speciality expertise in the unique spiritual concerns of those living with or affected by serious, advanced illness.

With that in mind, the following clinical practice guidelines provide endorsement for spiritual care as a mandatory component of palliative care, preferably provided by a trained, board-certified chaplain. 

Clinical Practice Guidelines

While all palliative care team members are able to recognize and address spiritual concerns, the palliative care chaplain is uniquely trained to assess and address the spiritual distress and spiritual pain that often accompanies living with serious illness. These key articles describe the role of the chaplain in palliative care:

There are a variety of spiritual assessment tools for use by the palliative care chaplain. The following list includes a few of the most widely used spiritual assessment tools: 

Spiritual Assessment Tools

Research on the value of Spiritual Care

Supportive Care Coalition