Purpose: While caring for patients, it is important to recognize more than just the apparent physical symptoms. Their emotional well-being, level of comfort, and spiritual concerns are relevant and should be taken into consideration. We aimed to identify if a greater commitment to spiritual belief systems by healthcare providers could have an effect on the patient care they provided.
Methods: The Ethics in Intensive Care Study (ETHICS) was conducted in multiple centers all over the world utilizing a confidential survey. Questions were related to personal opinions on ethical issues, including personal beliefs, and patient care. We hypothesized that the personal beliefs of the healthcare providers should not affect the quality of care provided. Pearson’s correlation was used to ascertain statistical significance.
Results: A total of 9,720 healthcare providers rated their level of spirituality from 1 (least) to 10 (greatest), and answered whether their beliefs affected their patient care. The majority of the people surveyed (65.6%; n=6,378) assessed themselves between 5 and 8 out of 10. In each individual level, most physicians felt patient care was not affected. However, on closer inspection and analysis, an interesting trend emerged. Only 11.4% (n=45) of those who rated themselves in level 1 of spirituality (n=394) stated their patient care was affected by their personal beliefs. Of people in level 5 (n=1,300), 13.3% (n=173) felt their beliefs affect the quality of care provided, and surprisingly, that number increased to 21.4% (n=193) among those healthcare provider rated in level 10 (n=899) [p <0.001, Pearson’s R correlation 0.94].
Conclusions: A significant number of physicians identify themselves as religious, whether by belief in God, or based on a level of spirituality. We found a strong correlation between the level of spirituality a provider feels and the perception of how much his/her patient care is affected. We are not aware if this translates into real differences in patient care.