Brunel Social Work Professor and Division Lead Holly Nelson-Becker recently co-authored a white paper on social work and spiritual care with the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network. There is an urgent need for attention to holistic health care that involves psychological, emotional, social and spiritual elements of an individual. When an individual has a serious illness or injury, questions of meaning and purpose may become central.
Interprofessional collaborative teams that include social workers and chaplains are seen as the model for ideal care in the US. Since spirituality and religion are viewed as personal areas, they may not typically be assessed and the need for necessary support may be missed. Spiritual distress, for example, has recently become an increasing concern for hospitalised patients and is now evaluated through available measures.
The paper considers the complexity of spirituality and religion in contemporary society and the scope of practice for social workers in giving attention to spiritual areas. Further, it encourages other healthcare professionals to consider spiritual needs, identify spiritual concerns, and decide whether referral to chaplains or religious leaders may be in order. The article concludes with some basic ethical guidelines for social work practice.
Spirituality and social work is an area of interest for several Brunel staff and one MA student is currently conducting his MA research dissertation in this area.