Religion, spirituality heal patients

New Delhi: A new study has suggested that hospitalised patients who had conversations about religion and spirituality with the healthcare team were the most satisfied with their overall care. However, 20 per cent of patients who would have valued these discussions said their desires went unmet.

Religious and spiritual concerns are particularly prominent during times of illness, suffering and death. However, there is disagreement about which members of the healthcare team should ask about and address these concerns. According to hospitalized patients in this study, whom they speak to makes no difference - the important factor appears to be that they have these discussions.

Joshua Williams from the University of Chicago, USA, and his colleagues analyzed data collected between January 2006 and June 2009 on 3,141 patients enrolled in the University of Chicago Hospitalist Study.

They found that 41 per cent of patients wanted to discuss religious or spiritual concerns with someone while in the hospital, and 32 per cent of all patients said some discussion did occur. Among those who had taken part in discussions, 61 per cent spoke with a chaplain, 12 per cent with a member of their own religious community, 8 per cent with a physician, and 12 per cent with someone else.

The authors conclude: "Many more inpatients desire conversations about religious and spiritual concerns than actually experience such conversations. Our findings suggest that physicians, nurses, healthcare organizations, and pastoral care departments may address an unmet need and simultaneously improve patient satisfaction by talking to patients about religious and spiritual concerns in the inpatient setting."

The study has been published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.


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