Fast Fact and Concept #19: Taking a Spiritual History

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Title: Fast Fact and Concept #19: Taking a Spiritual History

Author(s): Ambuel, B.; Weissman, D.

This Fact Fact and Concept reviews the components of a spiritual history--largely derived from the work of Maugans TA. The SPIRITual History. Arch Fam Med. 5:11-16, 1997.

Educational Objective(s)
Learn the questions to ask to explore a spiritual history.

Illness raises fundamental questions for patients--For what may I hope? Why do I suffer? Does my suffering have meaning? What happens after I die? When a physician stands with a patient as they face death, the physician inevitably plays a role in supporting the patient's inquiry into these fundamental, spiritual questions. In addition some patients have specific preferences or needs regarding medical care, death and dying that are based upon their religious beliefs. The physician often plays an important role in supporting a patient's exploration of these issues. Taking a spiritual history is one way to support the patient in this exploration.

Taking a Spiritual History

S-spiritual belief system

P-personal spirituality

I-integration with a spiritual community

R-ritualized practices and restrictions

I-implications for medical care

T-terminal events planning

Questions for personal reflection and discussion:


Contact: David E. Weissman, MD, FACP Editor, Journal of Palliative Medicine Palliative Care Program Director Medical College of Wisconsin (P) 414-805-4607 (F) 414-805-4608

Copyright Notice: Users are free to download and distribute Fast Facts for educational purposes only. Citation for referencing: Weissman, D. Fast Fact and Concepts #19: Taking a Spiritual History. July, 2000. End-of-Life Physician Education Resource Center www.eperc.mcw.edu.

Disclaimer: Fast Facts provide educational information, this information is not medical advice. Health care providers should exercise their own independent clinical judgment. Some Fast Fact information cites the use of a product in dosage, for an indication, or in a manner other than that recommended in the product labeling. Accordingly, the official prescribing information should be consulted before any such product is used.

Creation Date: 7/2000

Format: Handouts

Purpose: Instructional Aid, Teaching

Training: Fellows, 1st/2nd Year Medical Students, 3rd/4th Year Medical Students, PGY1 (Interns), PGY2-6, Physicians in Practice
Specialty: Anesthesiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, General Internal Medicine, Geriatrics, Hematology/Oncology, Neurology, OB/GYN, Ophthalmology, Pulmonary/Critical Care, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Surgery
Non-Physician: Clergy/Chaplains, General Public, Graduate Students, Lawyers, Patients/Families, Nurses, Social Workers

ACGME Competencies: Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Keyword(s): Communications skills, Death pronouncement, Discussing hospice care, Family conference, Giving bad news, Negotiating treatment goals, Personal reflection, Prognosis, Spirituality

The Fast Facts series is distributed for educational use only and does not constitute medical advice. For the most current version of Fast Facts visit the EPERC web site at www.eperc.mcw.edu. This mirror version is provided subject to copyright restrictions for educational use within the Inter-Instutional Collaborating Network on End-of-Life Care (IICN).