From the moment a person steps through Siloam’s doors and reads our mission statement on the wall of the waiting room — “to share the love of Christ by serving those in need through health care”– it should be obvious that one of Siloam’s principle concerns is the spiritual well-being of its patients. But how does our model of whole-person health care embody this objective? And what does this actually look like in practice?
Even in secular contexts, clinicians are reevaluating the integral relationship between a patient’s spiritual well-being and their physical health. “The ability to identify and address patient spiritual needs has become an important clinical competency,” says Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, co-director of the University of Chicago’s conference on “Religious Traditions and Health Professions Today.”1
To help evaluate Siloam’s competency for spiritual care, our Pastoral Care Committee hosted a seminar in October aimed at fostering this conversation and focusing on the spiritual care provided by the medical, behavioral, social, and pastoral components at Siloam. Similar to a traditional “Grand Rounds,” this seminar focused on a set of cases selected by staff providers, with each of the clinical staff discussing their encounter with the particular patient, reviewing history and presenting issues, and then responding to questions from those in attendance.
In fact, following a brief presentation of each case by the provider, conversation was then framed by questions related to the spiritual care delivered. For example: How much was known about the patient’s spiritual history during the exam? What was the thinking behind a pastoral consult? What was the relationship between a patient’s history of mental health issues and their on-going spiritual needs? More importantly, what was done well, and what could have been done differently?
Personally, the most remarkable part of the meeting was looking around the room at the diversity of participants. In addition to those clinical staff presenting the cases, participants included volunteers, administrative staff, pastors, medical residents, pharmacists, and health professional students. It was apparent from the broad engagement and the level of interest that Siloam understands that spiritual care doesn’t begin or end with a pastoral consult. If anything, this meeting illustrated that spiritual care is in fact a competency being developed by each staff member, student, and volunteer at Siloam.
Adam Woods serves on Siloam’s Pastoral Care Committee and on staff coordinating volunteer involvement. He holds a M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity.