Addressing religion and spirituality in the intensive care unit: A survey of clinicians

Palliat Support Care. 2018 Apr 30;1-6. doi: 10.1017/S147895151800010X. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Studies have shown that when religious and spiritual concerns are addressed by the medical team, patients are more satisfied with their care and have lower healthcare costs. However, little is known about how intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians address these concerns. The objective of this study was to determine how ICU clinicians address the religious and spiritual needs of patients and families.

Method: We performed a cross-sectional survey study of ICU physicians, nurses, and advance practice providers (APPs) to understand their attitudes and beliefs about addressing the religious and spiritual needs of ICU patients and families. Each question was designed on a 4- to 5-point Likert scale. A total of 219 surveys were collected over a 4-month period.ResultA majority of clinicians agreed that it is their responsibility to address the religious/spiritual needs of patients. A total of 79% of attendings, 74% of fellows, 89% of nurses, and 83% of APPs agreed with this statement. ICU clinicians also feel comfortable talking to patients about their religious/spiritual concerns. In practice, few clinicians frequently address religious/spiritual concerns. Only 14% of attendings, 3% of fellows, 26% of nurses, and 17% of APPs say they frequently ask patients about their religious/spiritual needs.Significance of resultsThis study shows that ICU clinicians see it as their role to address the religious and spiritual needs of their patients, and report feeling comfortable talking about these issues. Despite this, a minority of clinicians regularly address religious and spiritual needs in clinical practice. This highlights a potential deficit in comprehensive critical care as outlined by many national guidelines.

Keywords: Religion; critical care; end of life care; spiritual care; spirituality.