How & Why To Take A Spiritual History

If you’re a Christian healthcare provider, chances are you’re already committed to treating the whole person.  Of taking a holistic approach to quality patient care.

Recently, we’ve been going through CMDA’s all-new Grace Rx curriculum in our bible study brunches.  Last week we discussed how and why to take a spiritual history. Initially I had planned on sharing the various options for spiritual assessments with those who came, but figured others could benefit, too, so I’m putting it up here.

To give credit where it’s due, Dr Walt Larimore and Bill Peel put Grace Rx together, so I’m largely just passing along what they cover in Module 5 of their course.

Why We Should Take A Spiritual History

There are 5 main things we can learn by taking a spiritual assessment:

  1. a patient’s religious background
  2. the role that religious/spiritual backgrounds play (if any) in how they cope with illness and distress
  3. convictions that may affect, or interfere with, how we treat them clinically
  4. determining whether/not the patient is involved in a spiritual community, and, whether/not that community is supportive
  5. any spiritual needs that they may have

Evidence-Based Reasons To Take A Spiritual History

A large body of evidence suggests that taking a spiritual assessment/history is beneficial.

Here are 5 evidence-based to perform one:

  1. patient desire – about 70% of the American population views religious commitment as a central life factor, especially when dealing with illness.  Most patients want professionals to inquire about beliefs important to them.
  2. patient benefit – of studies reporting relationships between spirituality and mental and/or physical health, about 70% report positive relationships.  22% report mixed/no results, while 9% report a negative one.
  3. identification of risk factors – an inverse relationship exists between faith and morbidity and mortality.  For example, patients who ‘felt alienated from or unloved by God or attributed their illnesses to the devil were associated with a 16% to 28% increase in risk of dying during the two-year follow-up period’.
  4. may enhance healthcare – empirical literature from epidemiological and clinical studies that explore the relationship between religious factors and mental/physical health suggest that religious commitment helps prevent, improves coping with, and, facilitates recovery from illness.
  5. considered a standard of care – an increasing number of healthcare organizations are calling for greater attention to be given to spiritual issues as patients are treated and assessed.

Spiritual Assessment Instruments

Taking a spiritual assessment doesn’t have to take a lot of time, or, seem weird.  They can be delivered quickly, and, in concert with other questions designed to assess a patient’s overall health.

In addition, you don’t have to choose one instrument and stick to it rigidly.  You can use whatever questions work well for you, and, help you help your patients.

  1. Open Invite.
  2. FICA Spiritual History.
  3. HOPE Spiritual History.
  4. SPIRITual History.
  5. CSI-MEMO Spiritual History.
  6. ACP/ASIM Spiritual History.
  7. Larson Spiritual History (slide 69).
  8. GOD Questions (slide 70).  This is the one covered in the Grace Rx curriculum.

As I wrapped up this segment of the post, I stumbled upon Dr Larimore’s presentation at the 2013 Global Missions Health Conference.  This contains each one of the spiritual assessments mentioned above and may be the easiest way to access them in one place.

To Keep In Mind

When spiritual needs surface, remember to:

  • listen compassionately – regardless of where a patient is coming from
  • respect and clarify – always respect any beliefs that come up and seek to clarify as necessary
  • document – your spiritual assessment and a patient’s openness to it; the information may be helpful in future discussions

It Takes Courage

Even though a great deal of organizations (many of them secular) encourage spiritual assessments, pressures to avoid the topic and keep patient encounters brief make it hard in practice.  In addition, our own insecurities and (frankly) selfishness pose barriers, too.

Our commitment to treating the whole person, as Jesus did, can help us to press on past the barriers and include a spiritual assessment.  Doing this allows us to see where a patient is in their spiritual journey and join them – and God – in it.

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Recent Happenings

As we approach Thanksgiving, we are thankful for another great season of ministry. Here are some highlights since we’ve last written!

Fall Student Retreat

panelists

Our healthcare panel addresses the theme of work and life balance at the fall retreat.

In October, we held our first-ever citywide fall student and resident retreat.  After several years of prayer, God finally opened the door and allowed us to move forward!  We had an absolutely fantastic time as we considered the theme of rest. Dr. Josh Uy and I shared the teaching, and a panel composed of graduate healthcare providers interacted with the students in sharing how they balance the demands of their careers and families.  We also had plenty of relaxed, informal time together.

Global Missions Health Conference

2013 Philly Global Missions Group (2)

Our Philly group at the 2013 Global MIssions Conference!

Earlier this month, I joined a group of about 20 healthcare students and professionals on a road trip to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Global Missions Health Conference, the largest medical missions conference in the world.  Beyond picking up fresh ideas for our area ministry and networking, the best part for me was spending lots of time in meaningful conversation with people from our local healthcare community.  It was especially rewarding to meet with former students, now medical residents throughout the country, to see how they’re doing and have the opportunity to speak into their lives again. They are a living picture of what our local healthcare community is all about – investing in those God sends us in the hope that they will go out and carry the Great Commission forward!

Expanding Our Team

God continues to bless our ministry with growth and expansion!  Although sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the Lord(!), he continues to provide committed co-laborers.  In the past month, Dr. Neil Pitts, a pharmacist, has joined our ministry council, bringing a heart for the underserved, students, and a desire to help us wisely partner with those at our schools who may not share our faith commitments. In addition, Sharon has been hired as our part-time ministry assistant.  I’m biased, of course, but I can’t imagine anyone more qualified both to serve our women and capably assist with the growing number of administrative tasks!

Deep, Lasting Change

Perhaps more than anything else, we passionately desire that those we reach change in lasting ways that better enable them to serve God and those around them (the two greatest commandments).  By God’s grace, we are witnessing this on a regular basis and it brings us such great joy.  Here are some recent examples: one student has seen that he tends to keep others at arm’s length, but now he’s moving toward the difficult people in his life and helping them change.  Another has appreciated more deeply how fully he’s accepted in Christ, which has given him courage to ask for help and ‘be himself’ in his campus fellowship, which in turn is opening new doors for personal ministry.  Still another is struggling in a new city, but wants to take specific steps to stay connected to God and others where he is, rather than hoping to find it elsewhere as he has in the past.  Although often quiet, we are privileged to be on site as the Spirit works in the lives of those around us.

As Thanksgiving is just around the corner, we are especially grateful for you, our friends and support team.  We hope you are encouraged by the fruit of your investment!

Giving thanks,

Bryan & Sharon

Please lift up these praises and prayers along with us:

  • Praise for a great fall Intermed, fall retreat, Global Missions Health Conference and so many relationships where God is at work!
  • Praise for God’s provision of Dr. Pitts for our council and Sharon as our ministry assistant.  Please pray for wisdom as they begin their new roles.
  • Pray for a strong year’s end financially so that we are positioned well for the coming year.
  • Pray for God to give wisdom as our team meets with students for times of discipleship and mentoring.
  • Pray that God helps our leaders and I conduct ‘halftime evaluations’ in December and make any necessary adjustments for the spring.
  • Finally, pray that the Lord leads many to attend our annual CMDA Northeast Winter Conference (Jan. 17-19) for refreshment and transformation.  Please pray also that God provides generous funding for the event, always a challenge since we subsidize students’ attendance.