Spiritual Directors International

The Home of Spiritual Companionship

Making Health Care Whole

Making Health Care Whole: Integrating Spirituality into Patient Care
by Christina M. Puchalski, MD, and Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD
West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2010
288 pages
Reviewed by Spiritual Directors International

“Over time he found his own suffering enabled him to be truly compassionate to others in ways he was never before in his life. His cancer to him became a gift to a deeper and more meaningful life.”

When more than forty spiritual and palliative care experts gather for a national conference to discuss guidelines for incorporating spirituality into palliative care, their wisdom forms the basis for Making Health Care Whole, a valuable resource for everyone who works and serves in the field of health care.

Authors Christina M. Puchalski, MD and Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, explain: “The purpose of the consensus conference was to establish a common language and model for interdisciplinary spiritual care, identify resources and tools that have practical applications for health care settings, and develop recommendations that will advance the practice of spiritual care in palliative care settings. Achieving a consensus on spiritual care, both conceptually and pragmatically, requires engagement, deliberation, and dialogue among key stakeholders” (xxi). “Invitees to the conference included physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, chaplains and clergy, other spiritual care providers, and health care administrators” (xxi). In addition, 150 experts reviewed the document, added comments, and together helped to create Making Health Care Whole

In the foreword, Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, writes, “There is little in our highly technological training that encourages us to recognize or respond to spiritual reality, yet the spirit is a part of our daily lived as health professionals. Our medical culture often limits the ways that we think, the ways that we see things. It interprets our experience for us in ways that are often constricted and small. But life is larger than these interpretations, more filled with mystery and wonder and awe. More worthy of gratitude. Things happen that cannot be predicted or measured or even explained, things that cannot be controlled but only witnessed. When we become fully present at such times, we open a doorway of meaning and possibility for our patients and for ourselves as well” (xii-xiv).

Making Health Care Whole provides models of spiritual care that are broad and inclusive. Charts and tools are offered for screening, assessment, care planning, and interventions. Organized into two parts, “Introduction and Overview” and “Recommendations for Implementing NCP [National Consensus Project] Guidelines and NQF [National Quality Forum] Preferred Practices” an excellent and comprehensive series of figures, tables, and an appendix are also provided.

Spiritual directors offer compassionate listening. Often, in spiritual direction, topics of illness, death, dying, and birthing are common. Many spiritual directees encounter questions that challenge and deepen their experience of the sacred through their lived experience. Often spiritual guides receive their training because they are chaplains or offering spiritual care through hospice, their work in health care, or as an ordained or lay person who spends time with those who are ill and dying—and their loved ones. 

The times of life transition require sensitivity and openness to mystery and presence. With authority, comprehensive research, and collaborative consensus Making Health Care Wholewill be a valuable resource for everyone who desires to grow as a compassionate, listening presence, bringing respect and dignity for the whole person into the broadening field of health care.


Two for the Price of None

Learn. For. Free. Discover and Listen. One signup, two great resources. Free.

Help Us Serve More People

Become an SDI member. Great benefits, discounts, and networking. Learn more...