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Assessment of the Spiritual Needs of Primary Caregivers of Children with Life-Limiting Illnesses Is Valuable Yet Inconsistently Performed in the Hospital

Journal title
Journal of palliative medicine
Publication year
Kelly, J. A.; May, C. S.; Maurer, S. H.

BACKGROUND: Religion and spirituality influence how many patients and families experience illness, but knowledge of the level of spiritual care provided to caregivers of pediatric patients within the hospital is limited. OBJECTIVE: We evaluated patient caregivers’ perceptions of the extent to which their religious and spiritual (R/S) needs were assessed and addressed in the hospital. METHODS: We surveyed primary caregivers of children referred to palliative care <1 year prior at an urban, pediatric academic medical center. Participants completed a structured questionnaire with quantitative and qualitative measures of the provision of spiritual care in the hospital. Nonparametric tests were used to compare various measures of perceived and desired R/S support. RESULTS: The majority (16/24) of caregivers desired inquiry about R/S needs by the medical team. Fewer than half (12/25) had these needs assessed. No subjects were uncomfortable with questions regarding R/S needs. Only 35% (8/23) specifically wanted a physician to inquire about R/S needs. Subjects whose R/S needs were assessed perceived higher levels of support from the medical team (4.40 versus 3.08, p = 0.02). A significant correlation existed between number of hospital-based R/S resources used and reported R/S-related comfort (rs = 0.438, p = 0.043). CONCLUSIONS: Assessment of R/S needs of caregivers of pediatric palliative care patients is performed less often than desired, even though it can improve perceptions of support from medical teams. Use of hospital-based R/S resources can increase spiritual comfort. Standardizing assessment of caregivers' R/S needs and referral to appropriate resources is a target for quality improvement in pediatric palliative medicine.

Research abstracts