Teamwork Brings Spiritual Care Research Study to Life

Monday, September 16, 2019

Spiritual Care Study

As a Catholic health organization, Bon Secours prides itself on providing holistic care to meet the needs of a person’s body, mind and spirit. In fact, we have conducted research to show how much this philosophy is having an impact.

Bon Secours Chaplain Adrian Duckett recently initiated a spiritual care research study, which was featured during an international conference in Florida this summer.

“Although most people associate chaplains with offering prayer, professional chaplains provide many different spiritual interventions and serve in diverse roles,” she explains.

Chaplain Duckett was one of the first to adopt the new trend of professional chaplains producing clinical research. She connected with Dr. Tracy Fasolino, a Bon Secours/Clemson University researcher, to help with the framework for the study. The pair also pulled in Jennifer Ashley, a Bon Secours Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, to help with identifying patients who could participate in the study.

All together, they studied the impact guided imagery can have on a patient’s symptom management.

“Guided imagery is defined as a mind-body intervention that uses the power of imagination to bring about change in your physical, emotional, or spiritual wellness,” says Chaplain Duckett. “It is an intervention that researchers are beginning to study more.”

Chaplain Duckett recorded three separate guided imagery scenarios: beach tides, a farm setting, and sanctuary. This was done using standard imagery techniques. The study included 48 Bon Secours patients, ages 46 to 90, who were admitted for heart failure.

All patients were evaluated three times: before their guided imagery session, immediately afterward, and again a few hours later. During their evaluations, patients were asked to rate their shortness of breath on a scale of one to 10 as well as their level of spiritual peace on a scale of one to six. Overall, patients’ shortness of breath improved after their guided imagery intervention. This improvement even had a lasting effect that was noted hours later.

The results for spiritual peace weren’t quite as clear, though the researchers weren’t surprised by this.

“Measuring spiritual peace is uniquely personal and difficult to quantify,” explains Dr. Fasolino. “Our assessment of spiritual peace was one of the first steps in expanding the understanding of this complex concept.”

Despite this challenge, the trio thinks this study was a step in the right direction. They are already planning a follow-up study and hope that further research will lead to improved treatment at Bon Secours. For now, these three women are celebrating their success.

“All three of us played a very important role in this study,” says Dr. Fasolino. “If any link was broken, the study would’ve dissolved.”Learn about the success of another Bon Secours effort, the Save A Life Campaign.

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