Chaplains work to preserve patient dignity

Hospital chaplains and other healthcare workers can help patients retain their dignity in a place that by its nature undermines that dignity, the chaplain of Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Illinois, said in a recent interview.

"The average patient is likely to interact with 70 unique individuals," the Rev. James Christian, the hospital's vice president of mission and spiritual care, told faith columnist Thomas Mitchinson. "This can feel overwhelming and disorienting. Even the hospital gowns can diminish one's dignity."

Christian said chaplains "provide the time and space to be present with any patient to help retain and build that sense of dignity and connectedness. We affirm the worth and spiritual freedom of each person and treat all people with respect, integrity and dignity."

The hospital works to support diverse faith needs of its patients, Christian said in the article, making available Muslim and Jewish holy books in addition to the Bible even if patients don't want to talk with a chaplain. And having a staff that communicates compassion and empathy is vital to patient care, he said.

Recent research showed that few healthcare professionals discuss religion or spirituality when patients in intensive care units are nearing end of life, FierceHealthcare has reported, even though spirituality is important to many patients and their families. The research found religious and spiritual considerations were discussed in fewer than one in five goals-of-care conferences.

Other studies have shown significant links between religion, spirituality and outcomes in cancer patients, but are less clear about links to other aspects of health and wellness.

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