MEDIA ADVISORY: 07.15.11 Hastings Center Scholar and Colleagues Examine Spiritual Care of Seriously Ill Children

(Garrison, NY) Spiritual care – the care of a patient as a whole person through support for how this person finds meaning in the experience of illness – is widely recognized as integral to good palliative care, but little is known about how hospitals meet the spiritual needs of seriously ill children, as well as their families. An article coauthored by Nancy Berlinger, a Hastings Center scholar, described the role of professional chaplains in pediatric palliative care programs. The article appears in the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

The article reported on the findings of a pilot study by Berlinger and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and Brandeis University to find out how pediatric palliative care programs provide spiritual care. The study, which surveyed 28 well-established pediatric palliative care programs, found spiritual care was most often given by hospital chaplains as part of palliative care teams. In interviews, physicians and chaplains in a random sampling of the programs agreed that chaplains were able to identify and address patients’ and families’ spiritual care needs as part of interdisciplinary palliative care. Physicians and chaplains described two other palliative care services that chaplains provided. They facilitated communication among patients, families, and clinicians, and they helped clinicians cope with the stress of treating very sick children. The study concluded that more research is needed to evaluate the quality of spiritual care services, as well as organizational factors that support the delivery of spiritual care in children’s hospitals.

To request an interviewwith Nancy Berlinger, contact Michael Turton, Communications Associate:, 845-424-4040 x242.