Safeguarding the spiritual care of vulnerable inpatients during health crises

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Nicholas Taylor

Keywords

Abstract

Spiritual care consists of supporting patients to experience meaning and hope in healthcare settings as well as access religious and spiritual services as desired by the patient. Proper spiritual care is associated with improved quality of life, increased functional status, and decreased depressive symptoms. Spiritual considerations are particularly important for inpatients as well as patients facing diagnosis with high levels of uncertainty or poor prognosis. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated changes to hospital policies that impair patient access to spiritual care. Policy modifications include elimination of volunteer programs, restriction of family visitations, and reduced access to community faith leaders, though not all patients are affected equally by these changes. Patients of low socioeconomic status and those with low technological literacy struggle to access spiritual care by alternate means (i.e. using communication devices). Additionally, linguistic and cultural bias may contribute to unequal patient access because policy exceptions are highly variable. Furthermore, socially secluded patients bear a disproportionate burden due to previous reliance on discontinued hospital volunteer programs. Suggestions are presented that target building more robust spiritual care systems within hospitals and minimizing the impact of future crises on spiritual care access.