Spirituality refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning, purpose, and connectedness with the sacred or significant. Patients and families in palliative care often experience spiritual distress or desire spiritual support.
Chaplains’ roles are often misunderstood as being religious faith leaders for patients, but a more accurate description would be that of spiritual care specialists who identify and support patients with spiritual distress or unmet spiritual needs.
Many patients ask about spirituality, as many utilize spirituality to cope with health threats to their mortality. By addressing spiritual needs, chaplains provide a safe forum for patients and families to acknowledge their sources of spiritual distress, as well as identify ways to improve their spiritual health.
- To finish business: such as forgiveness, reconciliation, or to review their lives for meaning.
- To have involvement and control: in their care plan, medical decisions, hospital or home environment.
- To maintain a positive outlook: by utilizing spiritual strengths and personal resources to keep an open mind and live in the present.
Sources of spiritual distress
- Fear: of death, the afterlife, separation from loved ones, pain and suffering, and not leaving a legacy.
- Losses or grief: such as a loss of independence, mobility, life, control.
- Other negative emotions: despair, anger, frustration, helplessness.
See reference for more information.
Adapted from Schmidt R. Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin. Fast facts and concepts #347. The role of chaplaincy in caring for the seriously ill. Internet. Accessed on January 3, 2018.