Hospital Chaplains and End-of-Life Outcomes

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BMC Palliative Care

Recently, we spoke to Dr Linda Emanuel, Section Editor for BMC Palliative Care, to discuss her research teams’ work investigating the important implications of hospital chaplaincy services in a palliative care setting, and the findings from their recently published study in BMC Palliative Care by Dr Kevin Flannelly, Dr Linda Emanuel, Rev George Handzo and colleagues at HealthCare Chaplaincy.

In an era emphasizing quality and value in health care, the role that spiritual and chaplaincy care specifically play in improving outcomes (including patient experience and satisfaction, as well as other health-related markers) and costs – especially in end-of-life care – is almost completely untested.  Given most people rely on religion and spirituality to cope in such situations and make health care decisions, it has often been assumed that the contribution of chaplains is positive; but there is minimal supportive evidence to date.

In a study funded by the Fannie E. Ripple Foundation, Dr Kevin Flannelly and colleagues found significantly lower rates of hospital deaths and higher rates of hospice enrolment for patients cared for in hospitals that provided chaplaincy services compared to hospitals that did not. While this research did not study causality, it underscores the roles health care chaplains function in, especially in helping patients and families move from aggressive to hospice care.

With the support of the John Templeton Foundation, HealthCare Chaplaincy has recently funded six new important studies to develop and test hypotheses about chaplaincy care in health care and create foundational studies and tools that will support future research.  The project intends to jump start rigorous research into chaplaincy studies, in large part through identifying and supporting a cadre of chaplains and social scientists who will be the initial researchers in this formative area of enquiry.

For more information, see the full article here.

To submit your manuscript to BMC Palliative Care, please visit the journal homepage, or contact the Executive Editor, Dr Hayley Henderson for more information .