Spiritual care in the hospital: Who requests it? Who needs it?
How do hospital chaplains and managers of hospital spiritual care departments decide which patients should receive a visit from a chaplain? In some hospitals the answer is simple, there are enough people in the department, staff chaplains, students, or volunteers, so that all newly admitted patients receive a visit from a chaplain or a representative from the pastoral care department. But in most hospitals the answer is not so simple. In most hospitals there are not enough chaplains to see all the patients who might want to or need to receive a visit from a chaplain. In this situation, how do chaplains set priorities about who to visit? Knowing who would like a chaplain to visit could help the chaplain set priorities, especially when customer satisfaction is an important goal. Knowing who needs to receive a chaplain’s visit could also help the chaplain set priorities, especially when demonstrating the contribution of the chaplain to documentable patient outcomes is an important goal. This research project was designed to answer four questions related to chaplain’s decisions about which patients to visit: What percent of general medical/surgical patients request spiritual care? How do care requesters differ from non-requesters? Do patients who need spiritual care request it? Are patients with greater spiritual risk—that is patients with high levels of spiritual, psychosocial and/or medical need or distress and low levels of religious resources—more likely to request spiritual care?