Exploring Patients' and Chaplains' Perspectives About a Spiritual Care Program in the Primary Care Setting

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of general internal medicine




chaplain; primary care; qualitative; spirituality


BACKGROUND: Spirituality is an important component of social and cultural identity that influences health-related beliefs, decision-making, and coping behaviors. Despite the importance of addressing spirituality in healthcare, research about its impact is limited, especially in the primary care setting. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to explore patients' and chaplains' experiences of receiving or providing spiritual care in the primary care setting. METHODS: We conducted an in-depth interview qualitative research study. Participants included patient informants, a chaplain, and chaplains-in-training who participated in a spiritual care program at a primary care clinic. Interviews were transcribed and coded. Conventional qualitative research content analysis was performed. RESULTS: Eleven interviews were conducted - 7 with patient informants, 1 with a chaplain, and 3 with chaplains-in-training. Informants reported that in their experience spiritual care increased trust in their provider, made them feel safe to ask or share anything, improved their satisfaction with care, helped sustain healthy behavior change, and improved coping with chronic illness. Participants specifically attributed these positive experiences to chaplains' ability to respect and attend to patients' spirituality, create a safe space, help patients see the connection between their spirituality and health, and help patients tap into their own spirituality as a healthy means of coping. CONCLUSIONS: Spiritual care, when integrated into the primary care setting, has the potential, according to the report of our informants, to help achieve important health-related objectives, such as increased trust in their providers, sustained healthy behavior change, and happiness in spite of chronic illness. Now, more than ever, when our society is hurting from mistrust of our profession secondary to disinformation and discrimination, spiritual care has an important role to play in our efforts to gain our patients' trust so that we can support their healing.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences