Religion and Spiritual Care in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: Parental Attitudes Regarding Physician Spiritual and Religious Inquiry

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Parents of seriously ill children require attention to their spiritual needs, especially during end-of-life care. The objective of this study was to characterize parental attitudes regarding physician inquiry into their belief system.

Materials and Main Results:

A total of 162 surveys from parents of children hospitalized for >48 hours in pediatric intensive care unit in a tertiary academic medical center were analyzed. Forty-nine percent of all respondents and 62% of those who identified themselves as moderate to very spiritual or religious stated that their beliefs influenced the decisions they made about their child’s medical care. Although 34% of all respondents would like their physician to ask about their spiritual or religious beliefs, 48% would desire such enquiry if their child was seriously ill. Those who identified themselves as moderate to very spiritual or religious were most likely to welcome the discussion (P < .001). Two-thirds of the respondents would feel comforted to know that their child’s physician prayed for their child. One-third of all respondents would feel very comfortable discussing their beliefs with a physician, whereas 62% would feel very comfortable having such discussions with a chaplain.


The study findings suggest parental ambivalence when it comes to discussing their spiritual or religious beliefs with their child’s physicians. Given that improved understanding of parental spiritual and religious beliefs may be important in the decision-making process, incorporation of the expertise of professional spiritual care providers may provide the optimal context for enhanced parent–physician collaboration in the care of the critically ill child.

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