Research shows that spiritual strength and faith can help a person survive serious illness. That's why a holistic approach to medicine-with attention to physical, mental and spiritual needs is at the core of CARITAS' mission.
"Many health care facilities do not assess patients' spiritual health when they are admitted," said Donna Kenney, SCN, Vice President of Mission for CARITAS Health Services, "despite the fact that studies prove a healthy spirit and strong faith are critical to the mental and physical well-being of the individual."
In fact, a 1995 study of 232 heart surgery patients at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center found that patients who said they drew comfort and strength from their religious faith were more likely to survive. Those who did not have a faith base had a death rate three times higher than those who did.
"A holistic approach to medicine treats a human being as a complex, multi-faceted creature with many levels of needs," said Father Joe Stoltz, a chaplain with CARITAS Medical Center. "Appropriate medical care addresses the needs of the whole person, because if one aspect of the person is suffering, the other aspects are suffering too. For example, if a person is physically ill, that causes tremendous strain on the person's mental and spiritual wellness. Nurturing the person's soul and emotions brings greater and deeper healing."
To fully understand and address a patient's spiritual needs, a member of the Chaplaincy Department visits each patient within 24 hours of being admitted to the Medical Center. When appropriate, a spiritual assessment is done and the results are recorded directly on the patient's chart, said Sister Donna, benefiting all members of the treatment team. This program, tracks a patient's spiritual and emotional well-being from the time of admission through release, even providing outreach services for those patients who don't have the support of family or friends after they return home.
"Chaplains play a significant role in the care team, and that's why CAREPATH is so important," said Father Stoltz. "There are times in the presence of a chaplain that people will open up and share a concern that they may not share with someone else. That helps the whole team provide better care."
A reflection given by hospital employees is offered each day at 11:30 a.m. "The daily prayer is a small but significant way in which our mission is lived out every day," said Sister Donna. "I've actually seen people stop right in the middle of the hallway to listen to the prayer and have a moment of silent, personal reflection. As we get caught up in the activities of the day, it's a gentle reminder of why we are here."