Spirituality is essential to healthcare. It is that part of human beings that seeks meaning and purpose in life. Spirituality in the clinical setting can be manifested as spiritual distress or as resources of strength. Patients' spiritual beliefs can impact diagnosis and treatment. Spiritual care involves an intrinsic aspect of care, which underlies compassionate and altruistic caregiving and is an important element of professionalism amongst the various healthcare professionals. It also involves an extrinsic element, which includes spiritual history, assessment of spiritual issues, as well as resources of strength and incorporation of patients' spiritual beliefs and practices into the treatment or care plan. Spiritual care is interdisciplinary care—each member of the interdisciplinary team has responsibilities to provide spiritual care. The chaplain is the trained spiritual care expert on the team. Optimally, all healthcare professionals, including the chaplain, on the team interact with each other to develop and implement the spiritual care plan for the patient in a fully collaborative model.
The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, Departments of Medicine and Health Care Sciences, The George Washington University, Washington, DC.
Correspondence: Christina M. Puchalski, MD, FACP, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 2131 K Street NW, Suite 510, Washington, DC 20037.
No benefits in any form have been or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.
Received on August 7, 2006; accepted for publication August 15, 2006.