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Spiritual health/needs of our health partners

spiritual health Nov 27, 2020
When you are with your health partners, do you find it difficult to ask about spiritual health, unsure of what to say or how to inquire about it all?
Do you worry about what you may discover and how to manage all the information?
Everyone’s spirit has needs.
Our health partners come to us mostly when they are sick, worn out, stressed and their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being are out of sync. Some are in serious spiritual distress. In order to support their return to wellness, we need to know what their spirit needs for healing.
Barriers to asking about spiritual health
As clinicians/health workers there are many reasons we may feel that make it difficult for us to ask about spiritual health.
Some of these barriers include:
📌The broad definition of spirituality makes it difficult to know what to ask for and we don’t know how to do this.
📌Fear our health partners may not want to be asked about spirituality.
📌Our health partners may not have any spiritual beliefs or we may ask the wrong questions.
📌We feel we are intruding into their personal lives.
📌We don’t have much time in our appointments to really pay attention and listen to what is in their heart. We would rather not rush..
📌What will we do with all the information, who do we refer people to if extra support and help is needed?
📌As each person is different in culture, gender, age and other factors, we may not want to offend anyone by asking an offensive question.
📌We have not been trained in our health system and education, to ask about spiritual health so it feels like unexplored territory and a little uncomfortable.
📌Spiritual health is not a priority in our clinic
Questions to ask
Once we have identified our own barriers and also those within our work environment, we can then address these to assist making it easier to approach asking our health partners about their spiritual health.
For example, time constraints for our appointments could be the main barrier to exploring spiritual health.
We could approach this in the following different ways: 
📌Discuss with management extended times for appointments.
📌Make use of available spiritual health screening tools to have guidance and a sense of direction in our reviews.
📌If a person is coming into clinic for a non urgent acute need, balance the time to integrate spiritual health into the review.
Or if the barrier is concern our health partners may not have spiritual beliefs, or may not be interested in their spiritual health:
📌Have at hand in clinic, offices, perhaps in the waiting room, spiritual health posters, leaflets, magazines and healing modalities that may be useful, to trigger health partners into thinking about spiritual health more.
In this way it semi-prepares health partners so they may not be shocked or surprised about being asked about spiritual health.
In my own experience and those of other spiritual health professionals is that it is rarely the health partner (patient) that feels uncomfortable with a spiritual health inquiry. The hesitancy comes from the health care professional or provider not feeling comfortable because they do not know how to approach or start the discussion.
What do we do with all the information we find?
The following are steps we can take once we have explored the spiritual needs of our health partners.
Ask your health partner what they would most like help with at present, arranging a priority list with them, for them. For example, they may crave a sense of belonging and connection right now, more than how to communicate better with their partner.
Offer any advice that is within your scope of practice that would be helpful and supportive.
For complicated cases get consent from your health partner to discuss with another spiritual health colleague for any other suggestions that may help.
Refer to appropriate services eg:
📌Hobby or support groups ( for a sense of belonging and connection).
📌A chaplain (or spiritual leader/healer)- they are the specialist in spiritual distress.
📌Social services, housing, financial assistance.
📌Specialists, eg drug and alcohol, trauma
📌Alternative healing modalities that may be appropriate eg tai chi, massage.
📌Family therapy, Relationship counselling
Knowing the spiritual needs of a person is essential to healing of the body, mind and spirit. The more we explore these issues in our appointments and work places, the better holistic healing for our health partners. Their wellness also affects their families and those they come into contact with, therefore there are positive effects on the greater community also. We can build the confidence to explore these essential needs, improving our practice as clinicians/health workers and also our team spirit and environment.
Honouring and Serving,
Simran K. Rattan MD

Content support Maria Peach

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