Spiritual Talks May Boost Patients' View of Hospital Care

MONDAY July 25, 2011 -- Hospitalized patients who are able to talk about their religious and spiritual concerns are more satisfied with their care, but one-fifth are not given the chance to have these discussions, researchers have found.

The authors of the new study compiled information on the spiritual concerns of more than 3,000 patients hospitalized over a three-year period, and had the patients rate their sense of satisfaction with their overall hospital care.

The study, published online July 1 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 41 percent of patients had religious or spiritual concerns they wanted to talk about while in the hospital. These discussions took place among 32 percent of all patients.

The study also pointed out that the patients did not care who spoke with them about their religious concerns. What mattered most was just having the discussion. Most of the patients, 61 percent, spoke with a chaplain, 12 percent with a member of their own religious community, 8 percent with a doctor and 12 percent spoke with other people.

Half of the patients who wanted a discussion, however, did not get to have one (20 percent of patients, overall), the researchers pointed out. Meanwhile, one in four who said they did not want a conversation about spiritual issues had one anyway.

Regardless of whether they wanted the religious discussion or not, those that did reported being more satisfied with their overall level of care while in the hospital, the researchers noted.

"It did not appear to matter if patients said they wanted such a conversation," study senior author, Dr. Farr Curlin, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, said in a journal news release. "Even patients who did not want the conversation had higher rates on all four of the study's patient-satisfaction measures."

The study authors also revealed that older patients, blacks, women, those who were less educated and those in severe pain were more likely to have discussed any spiritual concerns they had with someone in the hospital. The findings could help medical professionals better address the needs of their patients and improve their sense of satisfaction about their care, they added.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has tips for safer health care for patients.

Posted: July 2011


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