Attention to Inpatients' Religious and Spiritual Concerns

Coping with advanced illness, hospitalized patients go without religious and spiritual fulfillment.

Poor health turns Americans to religion and spirituality. However, when it comes to opening religious and spiritual discussions, the medical community is ambivalent; to many physicians, raising such topics amounts to prying.

In 2006, the University of Chicago’s general internal medicine service added to its routine inpatient survey, items that probed patients’ religious and spiritual needs, inquired about the hospital’s responsiveness to those needs, and tied patients’ religious and spiritual experiences to their overall satisfaction.

Key Findings:

  • Fewer than 10 percent of religious or spiritual discussions involved a physician.
  • Of those patients desiring a religious or spiritual discussion, only half experienced one.
  • High patient satisfaction had associations with religious and spiritual discussions, even when the discussions had not been requested.

Almost all physicians believe they ought to be informed about their patients’ religious and spiritual needs. In contrast, this unique data analysis supports previous research showing that a low percentage of physicians actually engage in religious or spiritual discussions.