Brief Communication: Call to action: The need to expand spiritual care supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kalliopi Stilos, Rev. Bill Ford, Lesia Wynnychuk


Providing a ‘good death’ for patients dying in acute care is more challenging than ever with the COVID-19 pandemic. Spiritual care teams and palliative care providers strive to address the physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care needs at end of life—for both patients and their families, and often in concert with patients’ own faith groups. During the strict lockdown policy imposed in Ontario, Canada during the pandemic, external faith groups, and religious rituals requiring direct contact were restricted. Delivering spiritual care in our “new normal” environment challenged us to think more broadly, beyond the walls of our own institutions, particularly when external resources exist outside of acute care centres, and are often of paramount importance to dying patients and their families in acute care.

Full Text:



Balboni, M. J., Sullivan, A., Amobi, A., Phelps, A. C., Gorman, D. P., Zollfrank, A., …Balboni, T. A. (2013). Why is spiritual care infrequent at the end of life? Spiritual care perceptions among patients, nurses, and physicians and the role of training. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 21, 461–467.

Bender, M. A., Hurd, C., Solvang, N., Colagrossi, K., Matsuwaka, D., & Curtis, J. R. (2017). A new generation of comfort care order sets: Aligning protocols with current principles. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 20(9), 922–929.

Choudry, M., Latif, A., & Warburton, K. G. (2018). An overview of the spiritual importances of end-of-life care among the five major faiths of the United Kingdom. Clinical Medicine, 18(1), 23–31.

Christian, M., Devereaux, A.V., Dichter, J.R., Geiling, J.A., & Rubinson, L., (2008). Definitive care for the critically ill during a disaster: current capabilities and limitations. Chest, 133, 8S-17S.

Canadian Virtual Hospice (2003–2021). Rituals to Comfort Families.

Downar, J., & Seccareccia, D. (2010). Palliating a pandemic: “All Patients Must Be Cared For”. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 39(2), 291–295.

Ferrell, B.R., Handzo, G., Picchi, T., PUchalski, C., & Rosa, W.E., (2020). The Urgency of Spiritual Care: COVID-19 and the Critical Need for Whole-Person Palliation. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 60, (3), E7–E11.

Frost, D. W., Cook, D. J., Heyland, D. K., & Fowler, R. A. (2011) Patient and healthcare professional factors influencing end-of-life decision-making during critical illness: A systematic review. Critical Care Medicine, 39, 1174–1189.

Koening, H. G. (2012). Religion, spirituality, and health: The research and clinical implications. ISRN Psychiatry. 2012, Article ID 278730.

Leong, I. Y., Lee, A.O., Ng, T. W., Lee, L. B., Koh, N. Y., Yap, E., … Ng, L. M. (2004). The challenges of providing holistic care in a viral epidemic: opportunities for palliative care. Palliative Medicine 18(1), 12–18.

MacKindlay, E. B., & Tivett, C. (2007). Spiritual care and ageing in a secular society. The Medical Journal of Australia, 186(10 Suppl), S74–S76.

Murray, S.A., Kendall, M., Boyd, K., Worth, A., & Benton, T.F. (2004). Exploring the spiritual needs of people dying of lung cancer or heart failure: A prospective qualitative interview study of patients and their careers. Palliative Medicine, 18, 39–45.

Puchalski, C., Ferrell, B., Virani,R., Otis-Green S., Baird, P., Bull, J., … Sulmasy D. (2009). Improving the quality of spiritual care as a dimension of palliative care: The Report of the Consensus Conference. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 12(10), 885–904.

Saad, M. (2016). Programs of religious/spiritual support in hospitals- five “Whies” and five “Hows”. Philosophy Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 11(5).

Scott, K., Thiel, M. M., & Dahlin, C. M. (2008). The national agenda for quality palliative care: The essential elements of spirituality in end-of-life care. Chaplaincy Today, 24(2), 15–21.

Stilos, K., Ford, B., Lilien, T., & Moore, J. (2019). The role of spiritual care with the introduction of an end of life order set. Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling, 73(1), 41–48.

Stilos, K., & Moore, J. D. (2020). How COVID-19 has changed the dying experience for acute care patients and their families. Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal, 30(3), 218–219.

VandeCreek, L. (2010) Defining and advocating for spiritual care in the hospital. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 64 (2), 1–10.


  • There are currently no refbacks.