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Spiritual Needs Assessment and Reflection


Question: Are you a believer?

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Answer: I am, very much. I believe in God, and those moments in my life when I doubted his existence were the hardest moments for me. I am not much of a churchgoer because it was never a tradition in my family, and I cannot say I do many rituals, but I pray, and I read the word of God, and I call myself Christian.

Question: Has your faith ever come in conflict with medical care that you have access to?

Answer: I do not think so. I am not one of those people who reject the achievements of modern science and technology because of their religious beliefs. I am more like a person who believes that those achievements are blessings.

Question: Have your health care providers ever been insensitive to your faith?

Answer: Let me think. I do not think they have. I have to tell you I have experienced more frustration in hospitals because of male doctors who treated me with neglect because of my being a woman complaining about bad mood and fatigue. Nothing like that happened to me as a Christian.

Question: Do you think health care providers should ask you about your religion and somehow adjust the treatment to it?

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Answer: Maybe they should. I am sure that there are many religious practices and beliefs that make staying in a hospital very hard for people who have those practices and beliefs. Doctors and nurses should be aware of it, and they should help.

Question: Does being a patient drain you spiritually?

Answer: This is an excellent question. I think it can drain many people, and it certainly can drain me, but I also think that with the right attitude, it is possible to go through this experience without serious damage to your spirit and even enriched.


The interview was primarily aimed at identifying the patient’s religion and key spirituality aspects and at exploring relevant previous experiences related to spirituality and health care delivery (“Evaluating your spiritual assessment process,” 2005). What was successful in establishing mutual understanding from the very beginning: the patient was willing to share her religious beliefs with frankness.

The patient is a 45-year-old White American woman who identifies as Christian. She was also willing to talk explicitly about her healthcare-related experiences, including the somewhat delicate experiences of feeling humiliated by a male doctor’s neglect toward her because of her gender. The level of sincerity of the interview was highly appreciated. Another thing that was accomplished successfully is that, although not referring to her own negative experiences related to health care and spirituality, the patient recognized that sensitivity to spirituality was still necessary because other people’s spirituality could be under a larger threat than the given patient’s spirituality.

Concerning challenges and barriers, a major complication was associated with identifying the difference between religion and spirituality (Sharma, Astrow, Texeira, & Sulmasy, 2012). The first question was about religion, which is why, for the rest of the interview, the patient was mainly thinking about her religious beliefs, and only by the end of it, she talked about spirituality more generally. It might have been more helpful to begin the interview by asking something like “Is religion part of your spirituality?” in order to establish from the very beginning that the spirituality that would be the subject of the interview is broader than religion.

Concerning the implications of the interview, it could be assessed that there are none because the patient did not complain about anything spirituality-related in terms of her treatment. However, this suggestion of non-action should not be accepted immediately because discovering unmet spiritual care needs is a complicated process (Pearce, Coan, Herndon, Koenig, & Abernethy, 2012), and it may take more than a five-question interview to explore those needs.

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It is evident from the interview that, for the patient, spirituality is important, and maintaining a certain attitude and certain spiritual practices during her treatment is an important component of treatment and recovery processes for her. Therefore, spiritual support from health care providers is something that can largely contribute to achieving positive health outcomes for the patient. For this, further assessment is needed to explore what the attitudes and practices are that the patient adopts to avoid being spiritually drained when going through treatment.

Although the patient did not say it explicitly, the impression was strong during the interview that she regards her current health problems and attempts to address them as major challenges for her spirituality. At the end of the interview, she said that being a patient could certainly drain her spiritually, and she implied that receiving medical care required additional spiritual efforts. This is true for many patients; however, the extent to which different people emphasize the importance of spirituality for patients differs (Richardson, 2012). In the given case, the patient stresses that other people may need attention to their spiritual needs from health care providers more than she needed it; however, it is still necessary to receive more feedback from her on what she thinks can support her spiritually during her treatment.


Evaluating your spiritual assessment process. (2005).

Pearce, M. J., Coan, A. D., Herndon, J. E., Koenig, H. G., & Abernethy, A. P. (2012). Unmet spiritual care needs impact emotional and spiritual well-being in advanced cancer patients. Supportive Care in Cancer, 20(10), 2269-2276.

Richardson, P. (2012). Assessment and implementation of spirituality and religiosity in cancer care: Effects on patient outcomes. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 16(4), E150-E155.

Sharma, R. K., Astrow, A. B., Texeira, K., & Sulmasy, D. P. (2012). The spiritual needs assessment for patients (SNAP): Development and validation of a comprehensive instrument to assess unmet spiritual needs. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 44(1), 44-51.

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