Spiritual care in palliative care influences patient-reported outcomes

van de Geer, J. et al. Palliative Medicine. Published online: November 9 2016

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Background: Spiritual care is reported to be important to palliative patients. There is an increasing need for education in spiritual care.

Aim: To measure the effects of a specific spiritual care training on patients’ reports of their perceived care and treatment.

Design: A pragmatic controlled trial conducted between February 2014 and March 2015.

Setting/participants: The intervention was a specific spiritual care training implemented by healthcare chaplains to eight multidisciplinary teams in six hospitals on regular wards in which patients resided in both curative and palliative trajectories. In total, 85 patients were included based on the Dutch translation of the Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool. Data were collected in the intervention and control wards pre- and post-training using questionnaires on physical symptoms, spiritual distress, involvement and attitudes (Spiritual Attitude and Involvement List) and on the perceived focus of healthcare professionals on patients’ spiritual needs.

Results: All 85 patients had high scores on spiritual themes and involvement. Patients reported that attention to their spiritual needs was very important. We found a significant (p = 0.008) effect on healthcare professionals’ attention to patients’ spiritual and existential needs and a significant (p = 0.020) effect in favour of patients’ sleep. No effect on the spiritual distress of patients or their proxies was found.

Conclusion: The effects of spiritual care training can be measured using patient-reported outcomes and seemed to indicate a positive effect on the quality of care. Future research should focus on optimizing the spiritual care training to identify the most effective elements and developing strategies to ensure long-term positive effects.

Read the abstract here

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