Adventist hospitals in the Denver area are adding a spiritual needs assessment to both their inpatient and outpatient experiences. This entails asking a series of simple questions during the intake process to quickly assess the patient’s spiritual needs. It is designed to help connect that individual with a chaplain who can provide appropriate spiritual support as well as incorporate spiritual care into the patient’s overarching treatment plan.

According to Eric Shadle, vice president for Mission Integration at Centura Health, a growing body of research reveals the positive impact of spirituality on healthcare outcomes. In the wake of that research, Adventist Health System commissioned a new Faith in Practice study in 2016 to evaluate the impact of incorporating spiritual care into clinical practice.

The year-long study, which involved adding spiritual questions to normal clinical assessments, received overwhelming support from physicians, with more than 500 providers participating. The results were so conclusively positive that many physicians continued using the protocol after the study was completed.

The Faith in Practice study results informed the hospital system’s corporate-wide decision to develop its Clinical Mission Integration program, which equips employees to better accomplish the mission of “Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ” to every patient who walks through the door at the various hospital campuses. Patients are assigned to chaplains who are specially trained to spiritually support them, regardless of their religious background or worldview.

“Our patients come in with physical needs, but these needs are also impacted by their unstated psychosocial and spiritual needs,” says Dr. Shadle. “These include the need to be loved, the desire for joy and the search for peace.”

Shadle explains that, historically, the spiritual care component has come fairly naturally for patients who are treated on an inpatient basis and have access to hospital chaplains. The thousands of patients cared for in outpatient settings, however, can slip through the cracks when it comes to spiritual care and follow-up.

“This new program aims to patch that crack by providing tools that make it easier for our clinic patients to receive the same depth of spiritual nurture and support that admitted patients receive,” says Shadle.

The new spiritual assessment initiative is in line with the hospital system’s ongoing commitment to providing the highest quality care—on every level.

“The ultimate goal is that each patient receives not only the highest quality physical care but also the same high level of mental and spiritual care,” says Ken Bacon, Metro-Denver Group CEO. “It’s a part of our DNA, and it’s our mission.”