Assessing the Spiritual Needs of Patients Awaiting Heart Transplantation
Elie Ellenberg, Medical Student, University of Michigan Medical School
Healthcare and spirituality are two distinct, yet often intertwined topics. More recently the relationship between these two topics has been investigated with increased rigor. However, much of the current literature focuses on the intersection of spirituality and palliative care, chronic disease, or cancer care. Our aim was to investigate the spiritual needs of patients in critical need of a heart transplant awaiting heart transplantation in order to establish a foundation for future research and guide future approaches to care in this population. “Critical need” was defined as those who required a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) as a bridge to transplant. These patients are distinct from patients receiving palliative care, those with terminal cancer, or patients with other chronic diseases in that their future is less certain. If they receive a transplant they may have a fairly good prognosis, but if they do not receive a heart, their life expectancy is limited. Due to their state of clinical uncertainty, this group of patients likely has a unique set of spiritual needs. In order to investigate their spiritual needs, we administered the Spiritual Needs Assessment for Patients (SNAP) survey to 35 patients who currently had a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) as a bridge to transplant. The SNAP survey is divided into three categories of need: spiritual, religious, and psychosocial. The mean scores of the 3 categories will be compared to each other to determine if there is a particular category in which this population has increased spiritual needs. Additionally, the mean scores of questions that were considered to be clinically modifiable will be compared in order to help target possible future intervention. Lastly, box plots will be created of the data as it corresponds to the demographics of the population to allow us to better understand different needs across different demographics, genders, and religions. We are hopeful that the results of this study will provide a snapshot of the spiritual needs in this previously unstudied population. Our goal is to provide a foundation for future spiritual care research in this population as well as assist both clinicians and spiritual care professionals tailor their approach when interacting with this population and other populations that have a comparable degree of clinical uncertainty.