Military chaplains learned how to use research to enhance their services, and to integrate spirituality into health care during Navy Medicine’s annual Religious Ministry Team Training Symposium, held at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence that’s a part of Walter Reed Bethesda medical center May 30 through June 1.
For more than a decade, Navy Medicine has held the symposium on both the east and west coasts to help enhance chaplains’ care in ministry, said Chaplain (Navy Capt.) Sheila O’Mara, of Navy Medicine’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.
“Having this symposium for our chaplains is part of their professional development,” said O’Mara. She added the event allowed chaplains and providers to come together, find a common language and talk about the overall care of the patient. “We’ll be far more effective if we do it together.”
Attendees, including chaplains from various medical treatment facilities, listened to a presentation by Dr. George Fitchett, professor and director of Research in the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Since 1990, Fitchett has examined the relationship between religion and health in a number of community and clinical populations.
“I’m always excited to have a chance to talk about research, and help people learn and understand research” Fitchett said.
During his presentation, he provided an overview of several studies that have shown how spirituality has helped patients through their disease. He also showed them how to read, analyze and report on research articles. An example used was a qualitative study in which cancer patients used prayer in their recovery, while another focused on the impact of chaplains visiting patients with chronic disease.
Dr. Christina Puchalski, director of the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, in Washington, D.C., addressed the integration of spiritual care into health care. An active clinician, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Palliative Care, Puchalski has taught providers over the last 20 years how to effectively incorporate spiritual care into their practice using several diverse models as the framework.
Today, there is a new mindset in health care focusing on the need for spiritual care, explained Puchalski, stating studies have indicated better health care outcomes and compliance among patients whose values and beliefs are respected. Spirituality has also been associated with increased survival rates, lower anxiety and depression, she added.
Spirituality should be considered a “vital sign,” as an integral part of patient-centered health care system, Puchalski continued. She explained one particular model that’s being used, the biopsychosocial-spiritual model of care, which emphasizes the use of spirituality in treatment in order to view the patient as a “whole,” and better meet other needs, physically, socially and emotionally.
Chaplain (Lt. Cmdr.) LeRoy Mack, who traveled from the U.S. Naval Hospital Naples, Italy, to attend the symposium, said the symposium allows the chaplain corps and service members, of all disciplines, to come together.
Mack added he will take what he learned about using evidence-based spiritual care, and share it with his colleagues. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to expand our knowledge and perspective of research,” he said.
At Walter Reed Bethesda, groups of professionals from diverse disciplines are available to all patients, according to Chaplain (Lt.) Kimberly Cain, of Pastoral Care. Chaplains are on call 24/7 to visit patients, families and staff. The department includes religious program specialists, Eucharistic lay leaders, brothers and priests, a rabbi, seminary students and a licensed pastoral counselor, and represents faith traditions, such as Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Adventist, Anglican, Jewish and Islamic. Pastoral Care also offers private meditation and prayer, daily mass and worship services and confidential counseling.
Chaplains are a vital part of this process, visiting every newly-admitted patient within 24 hours, including those who come in for outpatient procedures, responding to calls for cardiac arrest, and meeting each medevac that arrives at the medical center, Cain said. For more information, call 301-295-1510.