Recognizing Patient Spirituality Could Improve Quality of Care

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , December 17, 2009

The study found that pediatricians usually respond to requests for prayer in one of four ways:

  • They participate in the prayers.
  • They accommodate the prayers, but don't participate.
  • They reframe the prayers.
  • They direct the families and patients to religious and spiritual resources, such as hospital chaplains.

A few physicians did join in prayers with families and/or participated in religious rituals, such as baptism or being at the bedside. Others said they accommodated prayers, but didn't actively participate in them.

Another group of pediatricians reframed the prayer requests in ways they thought were more realistic and appropriate, Cadge said. The fourth group of physicians responded to requests for prayer by referring patients and families to other resources, such as the family's religious leaders or hospital chaplains.

Overall, the study showed that the situations that lead to requests and physicians' behaviors in response are far more complex "than simply praying or not praying," said Cadge.

In the long run, both these studies seem to show that while responding to spirituality seems to be a personal issue, there may be more there in adding it to the arsenal of providing quality care—and maybe we shouldn't be so shy to talk about it.

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Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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