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
- NEW from The Joint Commission: This article is the first in a two-part series exploring how chaplains improve the satisfaction and well-being of hospitalized patients and their families.
- NEW from The Joint Commission: This article is the second in a two-part series describing how chaplains help hospitals meet various
Joint Commission standards; perform spiritual or religious screenings, histories, and assessments; assist in decisions about end-of-life care; and
conduct evidence-based research.
- NCP Clinical Practice Guidelines 3rd Edition
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
- A Three-Part Special Report from a Conference on the State of the Science of Spirituality and Palliative Care Research
- State of the Science of Spirituality and Palliative Care Research Part I: Definitions, Measurement, and Outcomes (subscription only).
- State of the Science of Spirituality and Palliative Care Research Part II: Screening, Assessment, and Interventions (subscription only).
- State of the Science of Spirituality and Palliative Care Research: Research Landscape and Future Directions (subscription only).
- A 2010 study demonstrating that provision of spiritual care to patients with advanced cancer is associated with improved quality of life
- A 2011 study demonstrating that support of cancer patients' spiritual needs is associated with lower medical care costs at the end of life
- A 2013 study demonstrating that provision of spiritual support to patients with advanced cancer by religious communities is associated with increased medical care at the end of life
- Transforming Chaplaincy: By drawing together leaders in chaplaincy from around the world and numerous healthcare settings, Transforming Chaplaincy is a truly collaborative initiative that seeks to address the needs and concerns of the entire spectrum of spiritual care.