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Spiritual care and COVID-19: give patients access to loved ones and chaplains – report

Dying patients deserve the solace of family and religious rites at the bedside, says study

A national plan is needed to ensure better access for essential hospital visitors, say researchers at Middlesex University

With loved ones and chaplains unable to be present at the bedside to console dying patients, the provision of spiritual care has fallen mainly to nursing staff Picture: PA

Researchers are urging senior nurses to ensure dying patients have access to face-to-face spiritual support from loved ones or chaplains, despite COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

They recommend the creation of a national strategy for spiritual support during major health emergencies and disaster.

Very little spiritual support was given to patients dying in the pandemic, say study authors

A study by Middlesex University London s Research Centre for Transcultural Studies in Health indicated relatives and chaplains were largely

A national plan is needed to ensure better access for essential hospital visitors, say researchers at Middlesex University

With loved ones and chaplains unable to be present at the bedside to console dying patients,
the provision of spiritual care has fallen mainly to nursing staff Picture: PA

Researchers are urging senior nurses to ensure dying patients have access to face-to-face spiritual support from loved ones or chaplains, despite COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

They recommend the creation of a national strategy for spiritual support during major health emergencies and disaster.

‘Very little’ spiritual support was given to patients dying in the pandemic, say study authors

A study by Middlesex University London’s Research Centre for Transcultural Studies in Health indicated relatives and chaplains were largely unable to offer patients spiritual consolation in person between March and May because of infection control concerns and lack of personal protective equipment.

The authors based the study on references to bedside spiritual care via Google, social media, and other online resources during the first wave of the pandemic. The authors estimated that only 13 hospitals out of the 111 in England that they studied allowed bedside spiritual care from chaplains and loved ones.

Study co-author Irena Papadopoulos, said it must have been a terrifying time for patients.

Study co-author Irena Papadopoulos

‘We have concluded that very little spiritual support was given to the very ill and dying patients at the bedside,’ she said.

‘This must have been a terrifying time for all COVID-19 hospitalised patients, particularly for young people, who needed comfort and support.’

Nurses gave what spiritual care they could in the circumstances

Dr Papadopoulos acknowledged nurses had provided what spiritual support they could in the circumstances but added more needed to be done on a national level.

‘Much spiritual support was given by nurses who were extremely busy trying to keep everybody alive and safe,’ she said.

‘As spirituality is an essential element of what makes us human and its provision to dying people is considered as the ultimate act of compassion, we believe what we found is unsatisfactory and needs to be addressed at the highest level.’

She said senior nurses, such as chief nurses and ward managers, can help by ensuring plans and communication systems are in place to bring in ‘spiritual professionals’ for patients with COVID-19.

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