Making your patients' spiritual needs part of your assessment

April 1, 2007

In a survey of 230 advanced cancer patients who had failed first-line chemotherapy, researchers found that 88% considered religion somewhat or very important, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2/10/2007). Moreover, respondents said that their spiritual needs were minimally or not at all supported by the medical community (72%) or a religious community (47%). Yet, the researchers found that spiritual support by the medical or religious communities was significantly associated with improved quality of life.

In a survey of 230 advanced cancer patients who had failed first-line chemotherapy, researchers found that 88% considered religion somewhat or very important, according to the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2/10/2007). Moreover, respondents said that their spiritual needs were minimally or not at all supported by the medical community (72%) or a religious community (47%). Yet, the researchers found that spiritual support by the medical or religious communities was significantly associated with improved quality of life.

While this study supports the integration of spiritual assessment into medical practice, there were several barriers. Physicians and other health-care providers may not want to cross professional boundaries, for example. Or, they may not be adequately trained to evaluate patients' spiritual needs.

In an accompanying editorial, physicians are encouraged to use the George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWISH) program.

Using the answers to these questions, healthcare providers can determine if the patient needs a referral to chaplains, clergy, or other spiritual providers.