Background: Spirituality is important for many family members of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). Clinicians without training in spiritual care experience difficulty identifying when family members are experiencing distress of a spiritual nature.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to develop a guide to help clinicians working in the ICU identify family members who may benefit from specialized spiritual support.
Design: ross-sectional study.
Setting/Subjects: A national sample of spiritual health practitioners, family members, and ICU clinicians.
Subjects: A panel of 21 spiritual health practitioners participated in a modified Delphi process to achieve consensus on items that suggest spiritual distress among family members of patients in the ICU through three rounds of remote review followed by an in-person conference and a final round of panelist feedback. Feedback on the final set of items was obtained from an end-user group of four family members and six ICU clinicians.
Measurements: A total of 220 items were iteratively reviewed and rated by panelists. Forty-six items were identified as essential for inclusion and developed into a clinical guide, including an introduction (n = 1), definitions (n = 2), risk factors (n = 10), expressed concerns (n = 12), emotions (n = 7) and behaviors (n = 7) that may suggest spiritual distress, questions to identify spiritual needs (n = 6), and introducing spiritual support (n = 1).
Conclusions: We have developed an evidence-informed clinical guide that may help clinicians in the ICU identify family members experiencing spiritual distress.
Background: Spiritual distress among family members of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) has not been well characterized. This limits clinicians' understanding of how to best offer support.
Objective: To explore how family members experience spiritual distress, and how it is recognized and support offered within the ICU context.
Design: A qualitative study involving interviews and focus groups between May 2016 and April 2017.
Setting/Subjects: Family members of ICU patients (n = 18), spiritual health practitioners (n = 10), and an interprofessional group of clinicians who work in the ICU (n = 32).
Measurements: Transcribed data were analyzed using interpretive description.
Results: The experience of spiritual distress was variably described by all three groups through concepts, modulators, expressions and manifestations, and ways in which spiritual distress was addressed. Concepts included loss of meaning, purpose and connection, tension in beliefs, and interconnected distress. Modulators were related to the patient and family context, the ICU context, and the relational context. Expressions and manifestations were unique and individual, involving verbal expressions of thoughts and emotions, as well as behavioral manifestations of coping. Clinical strategies for addressing spiritual distress were described through general principles, specific strategies for discussing spiritual distress, and ways in which spiritual support can be offered.
Conclusions: Our study provides a rich description of how spiritual distress is experienced by family members of ICU patients, and how spiritual health practitioners and clinicians recognize spiritual distress and offer support. These findings will help inform clinician education and initiatives to better support families of critically ill patients.