GWish Awards $500,000 to Demonstration Project Teams to Advance Spiritual Care

WASHINGTON (Oct. 5, 2022) ­– The George Washington University Institute for Spirituality (GWish) recently announced the recipients of five $100,000 grants in support of demonstration projects to develop and implement interprofessional spiritual care models that can be tested in multiple health settings. The grants are part of the GWish initiative, Advancing Spiritual Care in Everyday Clinical Practice.

“We are excited to announce the first cohort of GWish Scholars and their projects,” said Christina Puchalski, MD ’94, RESD ’97, founding director of GWish. “These demonstration projects will contribute to the knowledge and evidence base needed to include spiritual health as an essential part of whole person care.

“The emerging field of spiritual care lacks clinical models that can be validated and implemented in clinical settings. We expect the findings from these projects will create pathways for future research and clinical projects,” said Betty Ferrell, PhD, director and professor, Division of Nursing Research and Education, City of Hope National Medical Center.

Based on the generalist/specialist model of spiritual care and foundational to the five projects is the collaborative partnership between clinicians and chaplains: clinicians working on the “frontline” with patients to assess spiritual needs and identify spiritual distress, chaplains engaging with patients as spiritual care professionals on the healthcare team.

The Demonstration Project teams include:

  • Atlantic Health System (New Jersey), Stephen Faller, MDiv, and James Barr, MD
  • Baylor Scott and White Health (Texas), Daniel Roberts, MDiv, BCC, and Jeffrey Zsohar, MD
  • Erie County Medical Center Family Health Center (New York), Brent Anderson, MDiv, BCC and Sushama Thandla, MD
  • Mayo Clinic (Florida), Beba Tata, MDiv, MPH, BCC, and Kimberly Nelson, MSW, OSW-C, and 
  • University of California, San Diego Health (California), Allison Kestenbaum, MA, BCC, and Amy Bellinghausen, MD

Demonstration project leaders, called GWish Scholars, will be part of a newly formed Learning Collaborative to share best practices among a growing network of spiritual care leaders. The projects represent a diversity of clinical settings and patient populations, while sharing a common focus on spiritual assessment for patients with serious and/or chronic illness.

“Research shows how important questions of meaning and purpose are to patients facing difficult diagnoses,” said Trace Haythorn, PhD, executive director/CEO of the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). “These demonstration projects help us begin to constructively move from addressing why this is important to what practices best meet the felt needs of patients.”

Advancing Spiritual Care, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, is a collaborative effort between GWish, City of Hope, and ACPE. A movement to enrich the clinical care of patients, the program is designed for patients, families, clinicians, chaplains, and funders to learn about, understand, and advocate for spiritual care in clinical practice.

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