Spiritual care of families in the intensive care unit

Crit Care Med. 2007 Apr;35(4):1084-90. doi: 10.1097/01.CCM.0000259382.36414.06.


Objectives: There is growing recognition of the importance of spiritual care as a quality domain for critically ill patients and their families, but there is a paucity of research to guide quality improvement in this area. Our goals were to: 1) determine whether intensive care unit (ICU) family members who rate an item about their spiritual care are different from family members who skip the item or rate the item as "not applicable" and 2) identify potential determinants of higher family satisfaction with spiritual care in the ICU.

Design: Cross-sectional study, using data from a cluster randomized trial aimed at improving end-of-life care in the ICU.

Setting: ICUs in ten Seattle-area hospitals.

Subjects: A total of 356 family members of patients dying during an ICU stay or within 24 hrs of ICU discharge.

Intervention: None.

Measurements and main results: Family members were surveyed about spiritual care in the ICU. Chart abstractors obtained clinical variables including end-of-life care processes and family conference data. The 259 of 356 family members (73%) who rated their spiritual care were slightly younger than family members who did not rate this aspect of care (p = .001). Multiple regression revealed family members were more satisfied with spiritual care if a pastor or spiritual advisor was involved in the last 24 hrs of the patient's life (p = .007). In addition, there was a strong association between satisfaction with spiritual care and satisfaction with the total ICU experience (p < .001). Ratings of spiritual care were not associated with any other demographic or clinical variables.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that for patients dying in the ICU, clinicians should assess each family's spiritual needs and consult a spiritual advisor if desired by the family. Further research is needed to develop a comprehensive approach to ICU care that meets not only physical and psychosocial but also spiritual needs of patients and their families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Racial Groups
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminal Care / psychology*