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Evidence-based spiritual care: a literature review

Kalish, Naomi

Current Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care: June 2012 - Volume 6 - Issue 2 - p 242–246
doi: 10.1097/SPC.0b013e328353811c
PSYCHOSOCIAL CARE IN PATIENTS WITH METASTATIC CANCERS: Edited by Ben W. Corn, Mary Vachon and Harvey M. Chochinov

Purpose of review As spiritual care has increasingly been considered an integral component of a healthcare treatment plan, spiritual care practitioners have been encouraged to adopt an evidence-based orientation, just as evidence-based practice is encouraged in every other aspect of healthcare. Though the notion of ‘evidence-based spiritual care’ is still developing, increasingly research is conducted in order to provide an evidence base to the practice of spiritual care. This article reviews spirituality and spiritual care literature from June 2010 to December 2011 that employ empirical research methods.

Recent findings The majority of patient-focused studies concentrate on oncology and palliative care patients. In the review period, studies of care giver perceptions and experience came from multiple disciplines, including medicine, nursing, and chaplaincy. A discrepancy exists between the provision of spiritual care and the theoretical commitment of practitioners to offer such care. Practitioners continue to view spiritual care as part of their role to a greater extent than they provide it. This is often attributed to the absence of consensus in the field regarding the definition of spirituality, a lack of clarity of disciplinary role, and inadequate education for nurses and doctors about spiritual care. Research has further indicated that care givers’ explorations of their own spirituality correlate with the provision of spiritual care. Although historically spiritual care has been most integrated into the care of palliative and oncology patients, researchers are developing and testing spiritual care assessment tools with other medical populations. In addition, they are evaluating these tools in diverse religious, cultural and national contexts.

Summary Conceptual analysis combined with empirical study of care giver understandings of spiritual care will assist in developing clarity and consensus about the definition of spirituality and spiritual care. Investigation and conceptualization of interdisciplinary roles and provision of spiritual care is needed for optimizing collaborative care. More knowledge is needed about how to effectively teach spiritual care.

Coordinator of Pastoral Care and Education, New York Presbyterian Hospital – Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, 622 West 168th Street, PH1, New York, United States

Correspondence to Naomi Kalish, MA, ACPE, BCC, Coordinator of Pastoral Care and Education, New York Presbyterian Hospital – Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, 622 West 168th Street, PH1, NY 10032, United States. Tel: +1 212 305 5817; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.