Reflections on the Journey
Written by Philip Murray, Spiritual Health Leader and Educator, Spiritual Health / Professional Practice

October 16-22 is Spiritual Health Care Week in British Columbia.

October 16-22 has been proclaimed as Spiritual Health Care Week in British Columbia. During this week, we recognize spiritual health professionals and the role of spiritual health care principles in B.C.’s health system.

Spiritual health professionals are trained at the graduate level and have significant clinical residency training requirements in order to practice. As patients and families experience health challenges, crises, losses and difficult health news, spiritual health professionals provide assessment and support for the emotional and spiritual needs which often accompany the physical needs of the body.

Many studies over the past 50 years show that there are benefits to health and well-being when spiritual needs are addressed, including:

  • Improved motivation to complete the tasks of healing
  • Increased ability to cope with pain, nausea and discomfort
  • Greater use of palliative care at end of life
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Decreased feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and anger
  • Decreased alcohol and drug use
  • Decreased use of invasive technology and life-prolonging treatment at end of life
  • Shorter hospital stays

The World Health Organization recognizes the importance of caring for the human spirit in the hospital setting, and the value of elements such as faith, hope and compassion in the healing process. In 2012, the B.C. Ministry of Health echoed this recognition and approved a provincial framework stating the value of spiritual health professionals. Evidence indicates that spiritual health care interventions have been proven to increase client satisfaction, reduce spiritual distress, increase patient’s sense of peace, facilitate meaning-making for clients and family members, and increase spiritual well-being, all of which contribute to a positive hospital experience.

Spiritual health care has a long history in B.C. hospitals and residential care homes. “The B.C. Ministry of Health is committed to improving knowledge of spiritual health principles and the role of the spiritual health professionals within our health authorities as the next decades unfold. This is central to the provincial priority of creating a more patient-centred health care system and all health care staff are an essential part of this initiative as we provide care for individuals that encompasses not only physical health, but all dimensions of a person – the spiritual, the physical, the social, and the emotional.” (B.C. Ministry of Health, Spiritual Health, Supporting Person Centred Care, 2017)

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