Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Using patient-reported religious/spiritual concerns to identify patients who accept chaplain interventions in an outpatient oncology setting

PURPOSE: The goals of this study were to (1) describe the prevalence and correlates of patient-reported religious/spiritual (R/S) needs in outpatient oncology patients and (2) estimate the associations of R/S concerns with acceptance of an R/S intervention offered by phone. METHODS: This was a retrospective analysis of data collected from distress screenings and spiritual care interventions at an outpatient cancer center from March 1, 2017 to May 9, 2017. Patients (n = 1249) used a tablet to self-report the following R/S concerns: spiritual or religious concern, isolation, struggle to find hope/meaning in life, concern for family, fear of death, shame/guilt, and doubts about faith. Patients were also screened for anxiety, depression, and distress. A chaplain contacted patients that reported one or more R/S concerns to offer R/S interventions via telephone or in person. RESULTS: Approximately one third (29.9%) of surveyed patients indicated at least one R/S need. Younger age, female gender, anxiety, depression, and distress were associated with indication of specific R/S concerns. Fear of death (OR 1.64 [1.02, 2.66], p = 0.043), struggle to find meaning/hope in life (OR 2.47 [1.39, 4.39], p = 0.002), and anxiety (p = 1.003) were associated with increased odds of intervention acceptance. CONCLUSION: Effective screening practices are needed for chaplains to prioritize patients most in need. This exploratory study suggests that screening for struggle to find meaning/hope in life, fear of death, and anxiety will help chaplains identify patients who have R/S concerns and will likely accept R/S interventions. Developing effective telehealth practices like this is an important direction for the field.