Photo by Randall Armor

Spiritual Care and End-of-Life in Intensive Care Units

George Fitchett (Rush University) and Alexia Torke (IU Health / Regenstrief Institute)

Funded by Transforming Chaplaincy

Families whose loved one with an advanced illness is admitted to an ICU often are unprepared to make difficult decisions about goals of care and, as a result, request or accept futile, life-prolonging care. An experienced chaplain who is well-integrated into the ICU team can help provide support around these decisions. This pilot study examines the impact of chaplain care on end-of-life outcomes for patients with advanced illness admitted to an ICU. It describes the spiritual care provided by chaplains to ICU patients and families at the end of life and examines the association between chaplain spiritual care and end of life outcomes (e.g., LOS) in the ICU.

This pilot study, funded by Transforming Chaplaincy in collaboration with partner sites, is intended to collect preliminary evidence regarding the association between chaplain spiritual care and end of life outcomes in the ICU. Data collection was conducted in a total of six medical / neuro ICUs between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2019. Four ICUs are in academic medical centers and two ICUs are in faith-based community hospitals. Four of the ICUs – two in academic medical centers and two in faith-based hospitals – have spiritual care provided by experienced, board-certified professional chaplains (high intensity spiritual care). The remaining two ICUs have spiritual care provided by student chaplains or on an on-call basis (low intensity spiritual care). This design allows comparison between spiritual care in the ICUs of academic medical centers and faith-based community hospitals and between spiritual care by staff chaplains and chaplaincy students. The results of this project will be published in the fall of 2019.

Co-Primary Investigators
George Fitchett, DMin, PhD, Professor and Director of Research, Department of Religion, Health and Human Values, Rush University Medical Center

Alexia Torke, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Medicine, Indiana University, IU Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute, Inc.

Daniel Grossoehme, DMin, BCC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (University of Cincinnati College of Medicine) in the Division of Pulmonary Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center