Spiritual care

What are basic spiritual care needs?

  • being listened to

  • being affirmed and valued

  • being respected

  • being given emotional support

  • being understood

  • being given access to religious support

  • being allowed to simply 'be' without judgement.

What are the potential triggers for spiritual distress?

These may differ across specific clinical specialties but more generally these may include:

  • after a trauma (such as an accident or assault)

  • when bad news is broken

  • when a lengthy stay is envisaged

  • when a situation becomes life-threatening or terminal

  • when a bereavement is being experienced

  • when a patient is isolated and receiving no visitors

  • when a patient is a long way from home

  • when undergoing a crisis (in personal or home situations as well as in health)

  • when treatment is being withdrawn

  • on a significant anniversary.

What are the signs of spiritual distress?

Everyone is different and whilst some people experiencing spiritual distress may exhibit very clear symptoms, others may internalise their experience and it may not be obvious. The following is not an exhaustive list but does show some common symptoms: 

  • tearfulness or weeping

  • withdrawal or lack of interest

  • restlessness or being unable to settle

  • complaining

  • anger

  • sudden religious leanings or abandonment of previously held beliefs

  • fear (of being alone or falling asleep and so on).

What role does the chaplaincy team play in spiritual care?

The chaplaincy team are the specialists in the field of spiritual healthcare within the Trust. As such, it is the responsibility of the team to: 

  • be available for consultation and advice on spiritual and religious care matters within the Trust
  • to assist with an understanding of spiritual healthcare assessments as part of patient care pathways 
  • to encourage and facilitate a confident and compassionate approach to spiritual healthcare and to advise on relevant training needs.

It is also the chaplaincy team’s responsibility to deliver spiritual and religious care, in line with the profession’s nationally agreed best practice guidelines and codes of conduct. Urgent referrals made to the team will be seen as soon as possible, usually within an hour. Non urgent referrals will be seen within 24 hours, unless arranged otherwise with the referrer. 

When responding to referrals, chaplains will aim to:

  • discover how you are coping with your hospital stay

  • look for how you are making sense of what is happening to you

  • discover what your coping mechanism is and if it is effective in this instance

  • check to see if you are suffering from distress, such as fear, loss, sorrow, withdrawal or anger

  • check for any strong value or belief system and check whether this is currently sustaining, hindering or challenging you

  • check for any religious needs

  • discover whether you would like to talk through your experience or issues

  • discover how supported you are or feel

  • check your sense of self, identity, worth, dignity and esteem.

How might the chaplains deliver spiritual care?

Chaplains provide:

  • A listening ear, using reflective listening skills and open questions. This allows you to reflect on your experience, coping patterns, beliefs and concerns.
  • Emotional and psychological care – being there, alongside you, helping you not to feel alone, to feel comforted, supported and ‘held’. 
  • Religious care – absolution, anointing, holy communion, baptism, prayer, access to an appropriate faith leader. 
  • Dignity – by being there, alongside you and respecting you as a whole person. 
  • A means to express loss, fear anger and sorrow. 
  • A safe place where people can be themselves and can express their fears and concerns in a fully confidential setting. 
“We cannot thank you enough for all your wonderful support … you kindly gave us support and strength when we needed it and a calmness which was much appreciated.” (mother of child with cancer).

How is spiritual care recorded?

Within the chaplaincy department, each patient visit is recorded along with the general category of care that was given. If you have a formal referral, this is recorded in slightly more detail on referral sheets to aid communication within the team. Some clinical areas have separate spiritual care recording sheets within the multiprofessional care notes. Some have spaces contained within the care pathways.

It is recommended that staff record referrals they make to the chaplaincy department in the your patient notes, along with any spiritual care they may have provided. Chaplains should write any significant encounters in these notes as well as ensuring that the primary carer for that patient is made aware of any situation that is deemed important for their care. 

Spiritual care policy

The Trust has a spiritual care policy to ensure that the spiritual and religious care needs of patients and those who are important to them are supported.