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GWish Receives $3 Million Grant to Launch 10-Year Campaign, Advancing Spiritual Care

The George Washington University Institute for Spirituality Health (GWish) received a $3 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation (JTF) in support of a multi-year project to develop a model for health care teams, including chaplains, to address the spiritual needs of patients. The grant will fund the first phase of a broader 10-year GWish initiative, Advancing Spiritual Care, designed to grow the field of spiritual care. In this phase, the first three years of the project, GWish will connect philanthropic and institutional partners to lay the groundwork for incorporating spiritual care into medicine.

“We are excited to announce the 2022 launch of Advancing Spiritual Care,” said Christina Puchalski, MD ’94, RESD ’97, founding director of GWish. “We envision an innovative model of global health care that recognizes spiritual health as an integral part of patient-centered care.

“We believe that attention to spiritual distress is a human right, as much as attention to other physical, emotional, and social concerns,” she added. “Spiritual health is critical across all ages and diagnoses, with particular importance for patients with serious or chronic illness.”

The initiative, a collaborative effort between GWish and longstanding partners City of Hope, led by Betty Ferrell, PhD, MSN, and the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, led by Rev. Trace Haythorn, PhD, will work to increase clinician knowledge and competency to provide spiritual care to patients. Building upon two decades of research, education, and clinical best practices, GWish will employ many of the tools it has developed, such as the Interprofessional Spiritual Care Education Curriculum, or ISPEC, an evidence-based curriculum for teaching health care providers how to address their patients’ spiritual needs as a daily practice, to promote spiritual care as a health care discipline.

Clinician/chaplain pairs will be invited to devise and conduct demonstration projects consisting of interprofessional spiritual care clinical models that can be tested in multiple health settings. Findings from those projects will establish pathways for future research, grants, and a larger, more standardized implementation of interprofessional spiritual care.

“The field of spirituality and health has been emerging for more than two decades,” Puchalski said. “We can now accelerate that growth by conducting research demonstrating that spiritual care as part of a treatment plan can result in a positive impact on patient outcomes and well-being.”