Health Professionals at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Ctr.  

Aug. 13: Spiritual care and treating the whole person

Steve Narang image  

In our journey to developing institutes in key clinical areas that integrate teaching, research and clinical care, one of our key strategies will be to create a highly multidisciplinary culture focused around ensuring a highly coordinated patient experience. In order to accomplish this, we will need to integrate the unique knowledge, skills and attitudes of ALL our disciplines.

Today, I would like to introduce to you Adriana Cavina, the senior manager of Spiritual Care and ACPE Clinical Pastoral Education at BGSMC. In her words, she describes a vision of the significant role of Spiritual Care in the creation of new Possibilities at Banner Good Samaritan. Thank you Adriana for your leadership and your teams’ engagement in our future journey …

Steve Narang, MD, is the chief executive officer at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center

Treating the whole person

By Adriana Cavina, senior manager of Spiritual Care

Spiritual care has always been an integrated part of patient-centered care in our medical center. BGSMC has the oldest Clinical Pastoral Education program in the Valley with 37 years of an excellent tradition of training and formation for chaplains. Chaplain students learn through supervised practice the art and skills of caring for people experiencing emotional and spiritual distress. 

As Banner Good Samaritan prepares to become an ever more prominent institution in the medical and academic field, our department is already assisting the process in all aspects. We work with patients and families, but primarily with and among staff.

  • Education: our staff chaplains, chaplain residents and chaplain interns are here to help staff to maintain their deepest sense of calling, to never forget their first choice of becoming an expert in the health care field was in response to a deeply felt vocation, and that everyone here is a healer, in the most profound meaning of the word.
  • Clinical Practice: as professional chaplains we retain our connection to the whole person and we work from the conviction that the patient is more than the sum of his or her medical issues. We know how to attend to the “more,” the link between physical distress and emotional turmoil, between loss and the many faces of grief, between the need to be cured and the spiritual crisis concerning the loss of health and of life certainties.
  • Research: we look for and collect evidence that the human side of medicine influences the patient experience in many ways. We participate in studies and emphasize the whole person. No human being can be seen as a part to be treated, studied and cured; the whole being suffers and the whole being heals.

The Joint Commission recognizes that “Cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs can affect a patient’s or family’s perception of illness and how they approach treatment. In addition, patients may have unique needs associated with their cultural, religious, or spiritual beliefs that staff should acknowledge and address.”

As Banner Good Samaritan prepares to become a nationally recognized academic medical center, we are well-positioned to address cultural and religious/spiritual dimensions as they emerge in the educational, clinical and research components of academic medicine.

The Association of American Medical Colleges highlights the importance of preparing physicians to recognize the cultural and religious concerns of their patients, regardless of the physician’s own belief system.

Myself and Ruth Schulenberg, Clinical Pastoral Educator, both have considerable experience as guest faculty at several different medical schools and university-affiliated teaching hospitals. By fostering collaboration between the chaplain internship/residency program, the nursing education program and the medical and surgical residency programs, students in all disciplines have educational opportunities that are multi-dimensional and patient and family centered. Through interdisciplinary case conferences, ethics grand rounds, small discussion groups and didactics, caregivers are better equipped to work together as a team to address patients as whole people who are greater than the sum of their injuries and illnesses.

At a time of great change in the U.S. health care system, there has been some discussion about levels of satisfaction among physicians and other health care providers. In response to a recent study, the Health Affairs Blog noted that a significant factor in satisfaction levels was the physician’s sense of influence. “Physicians who feel at the end of each working day that they have been able to deliver the quantity and quality of care that their patients’ require, are likely to be satisfied with their practice. Elements that interfere with that self-assessment can be either intrinsic or extrinsic to the practice.”

Similarly, when a group of nursing students were asked what surprised them about their clinical rotations, a common theme was “how little time we have to really talk with patients. We’re so busy with all the things we have to do that it’s easy to forget that we’re working with people, not just broken or sick bodies.” Professional chaplains and clinical pastoral educators are well-equipped to work with caregivers from all disciplines to reconnect to their sense of vocation as healers, rather than component parts of a health care machine.

Professional chaplains can contribute to ongoing research efforts to examine how attending to emotional, cultural, and religious/spiritual concerns contribute to positive health outcomes. More research is needed, for instance, on the relationship between religious/spiritual beliefs and the quality of a person’s partnership (rather than “compliance”) with health care providers.

Dr. Narang’s repeated invitation to see BGSMC as a “place of possibilities” is a clarion call to us chaplains. There is nothing more exciting for us than to be able to build institutes where patients and families may feel that they are seen as human persons, assisted and treated by expert clinicians, and accompanied by compassionate, caring, attentive and competent chaplains who are skilled at interpreting and discerning the myriad needs of a distressed and anxious soul.



Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center
1111 E. McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85006
(602) 839-2000
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