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Religion, Health and Human Values Research

Rush’s Department of Religion, Health and Human Values is one of the world’s leading centers for research about religion/spirituality and health and spiritual care. The department’s research program began in 1990. Its aim is to help chaplains and health care professionals use research to provide the most effective possible spiritual care for patients, families and staff.


Religion/spirituality and Living with Cancer The role of religion and spirituality in living with cancer has been an area of interest since the beginning of our research program. Our work includes collaboration with the American Cancer Society on multiple studies of the role of religion/spirituality in supporting cancer survivors’ quality of life.

Religious/spiritual Struggle An early study found that religious/spiritual struggle (e.g., feeling abandoned by God) compromised medical rehabilitation patients’ recovery. Subsequent studies confirmed this association in other clinical samples. Our program has been a leader in developing methods for early screening of patients who may be experiencing religious/spiritual struggle.

Chaplaincy Case Studies Our leadership led to the publication of the first chaplain case studies in 2011. Since then we have supported the publication of over 40 chaplain case studies, including two books (Spiritual Care in Practice: Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy, 2015; Case Studies in Spiritual Care: Healthcare Chaplaincy Assessments, Interventions and Outcomes, 2018; G Fitchett & S Nolan, Co-editors).

Dignity Therapy in Palliative Care We are co-leaders of an NIH-funded R01 study examining the effects of nurse-led and chaplain-led Dignity Therapy for palliative care patients. This is one of the first NIH-funded studies of a chaplain intervention.

Transforming Chaplaincy We launched this project in 2015 funded by $4.5M in grants from the John Templeton Foundation and others. The project advances chaplain research literacy and spiritual care research. One outcome from the project is the book, Evidence-Based Healthcare Chaplaincy: A Research Reader (2018, G Fitchett, KB White & K Lyndes, Co-editors). The project also initiated a 9-month educational program, Spiritual Care Management and Leadership, in conjunction with faculty in Rush’s Department of Health Systems Management.

Current Research

Other current research includes developing and testing models for spiritual assessment in palliative care (the PC 7 model), studies of the effects of chaplain care on ICU patient outcomes and studies of the effects of chaplain care on the patient experience. We are also examining chaplaincy care in the COVID-19 pandemic and providing spiritual care to address COVID-related stress and trauma experienced by healthcare professionals.