20 Successful integration of the spiritual dimension into chronic pain therapy

Attention to the spiritual dimension in interprofessional therapy can contribute to more satisfactory care of patients with chronic pain. The study generated a basis for this approach and tools for interprofessional training and clinical practice.

  • ​Project description (completed ​research project)

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    The significance of spiritual aspects in the management of chronic pain was described on the basis of a literature review. The results and further data were used to develop and test a screening tool in conjunction with pain patients and healthcare professionals. This makes it possible to systematically record the spiritual needs and resources of pain patients and consider them in pain therapy. Finally, an e-learning tool for communication training focusing on pain and spirituality was developed for communication between healthcare professionals and patients. The efficacy of the tool was evaluated with respect to initial training in a controlled field study, and acceptance was evaluated with more advanced training with the participation of various training institutes.

  • Background

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    Chronic pain often has a major physical, psychological and social impact on persons affected. Integrating the spiritual dimension into an interprofessional approach, as called for by the World Health Organisation, can contribute to the provision of high-quality, comprehensive care. However, to date there were no tools suitable for recording patients’ spiritual needs in the everyday clinical setting, or for training professionals in this aspect of pain management.

  • Aim

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    The study had two goals. Firstly, the significance of the spiritual dimension in medical treatment and nursing of patients was investigated in chronic pain patients and an appropriate surveying tool was developed and validated. Secondly, we aimed for the development of an e-learning tool supporting teaching of communication between healthcare professionals and patients, and thereby assess its efficacy of integrating the spiritual dimension into communication training.

  • Results

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    The study showed that two-thirds of the pain patients interviewed wished that spiritual aspects would be included in their treatment. An open discussion on this topic promotes finding a suitable strategy for the treatment of chronic pain. The tool used for this purpose proved to be feasible and reliable for assessing the spiritual needs and resources of chronic pain patients. In addition, the e-learning tool with a communication module “Spirituality” for healthcare professionals was successfully developed, implemented and tested for its effectiveness. The tool was well accepted by the users and clear learning effects could be demonstrated after its use.

  • Relevance / Application

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    Significance of the results for research and practice

    The study provided a conceptual basis and tools for the needs-oriented inclusion of spiritual aspects in the therapy of chronic pain patients. Targeted teaching/learning programmes will reinforce healthcare professionals’ ability to address spiritual matters with patients. The tools and instruments developed can also be used in other clinical settings, thus advancing the systematic integration of the spiritual dimension in the treatment of pain.

  • Original title

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    Spiritual Care in Chronic Pain. Interdisciplinary Research for Interprofessional Practice in Medicine and Nursing