New project idea | Religious/spiritual practices following hospitalization and activation of outpatient care among underserved patients

It has been established that religious/spiritual coping can support the well-being of patients following hospitalization. The protective effects of religious/spiritual identity on patient survival have been widely discussed and debated in medical research (Koenig, 2008). However, despite this attention to levels of religiosity and patient outcomes, how religious/spiritual beliefs and practices work in the context of underserved patients has not been fully addressed. Clinicians (including spiritual care professionals and chaplains) need to better understand how religious/spiritual beliefs and practices are embedded in the lives of underserved patients, in order to meaningfully engage with spiritual well-being as they recover or activate outpatient care. My dissertation research revealed how acute medical events, such as hospitalization or surgery, influence religious/spiritual practices, and that religion/spirituality shapes how Women of Color patients deal with acute medical events and the recovery process that follows. Women who experienced adversity in domains of social risk (poverty, social isolation, limited community resources) had experiences of religious/spiritual struggle and requested spiritual support. My plan is to conduct mixed-methods research: (a) to investigate religious/spiritual practices among underserved patients who were recently hospitalized, and patients receiving referrals related to housing or community resources who were recently hospitalized; and (b) to explore how underserved patients view or initiate outpatient care, especially in relation to their religion/spirituality. Results will help to explain the ways religious/spiritual engagement influences recovery and involvement in outpatient care after hospitalization in the full context of patients’ lives. Also, by investigating lived experience from underserved patients’ perspectives, I expect to better grasp how hospitalization influences access and use of religious/spiritual practices that underserved patients engaged prior to being hospitalized; understanding these influences and changes might make a difference in the strategies employed to support underserved patients with religious/spiritual needs in their coping.

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