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Risks, Benefits, and Recommendations for Pastoral Care on Inpatient Psychiatric Units

A Systematic Review


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: September 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 5 - p 363–381
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000178

Objective: A systematic review was conducted of the biomedical literature regarding pastoral care (PaC) providers on inpatient psychiatric units with the aim of answering 3 questions: (1) What are the risks and benefits of PaC providers’ presence on inpatient psychiatric units? (2) What are current recommendations for integration of PaC providers into a psychiatric team? and (3) What gaps exist in the literature?

Methods: PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus were searched from the start of each database to July 9, 2014 using terms related to PaC providers and inpatient psychiatry. Two independent reviewers performed full-text reviews of each article identified by independent review of all titles/abstracts from the electronic search and by a hand search of articles included in reference lists. Inclusion criteria were: English-language article, published in a peer-reviewed journal, and focus on a PaC provider working in a psychiatric hospital setting. One author performed data extraction.

Results: Forty-nine articles were identified by electronic (84%) and hand search (16%), 18 of which were evaluative studies: 5 qualitative and 13 quantitative. Most of the literature viewed integration of PaC providers in inpatient treatment teams as beneficial. Potential harms were noted and mitigation strategies suggested, including providing training to PaC providers concerning psychiatric illness, clearly defining roles, and enhancing team integration. None of the articles reported outcomes data.

Conclusions: Psychiatric inpatients often have unmet spiritual needs. Although the literature suggests potential benefits of PaC providers for psychiatric inpatients, more rigorous studies are needed to establish these benefits as efficacious. The authors of this review recommend the cautious integration of PaC providers into the psychiatric inpatient care team.

PENNYBAKER: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

HEMMING: Division of General Internal Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC

ROY and CHISOLM: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

ANTON: Welch Medical Library, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Patrick Hemming, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, 4220 N Roxboro Rd, Durham, NC 27704 (e-mail:

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