Christmas Day and the New Year signify a time of hope and new beginnings. During this time, we look back and reflect on our blessings from the past year. It is also a great time to reevaluate our priorities and think about whether or not we experience the Christmas promise of love, peace, and joy throughout the entire year, or only during the holidays.
With the goal of offering whole-person care, Shawnee Mission Health in Kansas is now conducting wholeness screenings by asking patients about their ability to experience love, peace and joy. The result has been an open conversation about topics surrounding mental and spiritual health.
Opening Up About Love, Peace, and Joy
According to SMH regional director of Clinical Mission Integration Nathan Harrup, most physicians have been pleased with how patients have reacted when asked if they experience love, peace and joy in their life.
“Patients have been more honest and open in discussing spiritual needs than providers, or we as leaders, anticipated they would be,” said Harrup. “We forget sometimes how questions about spiritual well-being fold into the larger conversations about personal balance and wholeness that so many people are having these days.”
Although patient responses are always confidential, Harrup and his team track the type of feedback physicians receive to ensure the questions are resonating with patients. When a patient’s spiritual or mental health need is identified, the physician can send a referral to the E-Spiritual Care Center, which contacts the patient to provide support over the phone and determine next steps.
“Within a few months, thousands of patients have been willing to acknowledge a lack of peace in their lives,” explained Harrup. “This has created opportunities to provide encouragement and support, and has triggered a number of referrals to the E-Spiritual Care Center for even more focused follow-up.”
Our caregivers at the E-Spiritual Care Center are trained to be nonsectarian and religiously inclusive, but do sometimes refer patients to local clergy or faith groups for additional guidance. Depending on the need, they may also suggest resources such as local food banks, shelters, counselors, and financial aid centers.
Determining Your Spiritual Wholeness
If you do not visit a physician who regularly asks questions that spark conversation about your mental and spiritual health, you may be wondering how best to start evaluating the presence or lack of love, peace, and joy in your life.
“There is no reason any of us shouldn’t ask ourselves these spiritual wholeness indicators daily as a starting point for taking stock of our inner well-being,” said Harrup. “But the truth is spiritual self-diagnosis is difficult, because while it is the most deeply personal thing imaginable, it is best experienced in community.”
Harrup suggests that spiritual hunger is a sign your soul needs nourishment just as we recognize our bodies need nourishment through feelings of physical hunger. We can attend to our spiritual hunger through participating in activities like a quiet walk, honest prayer, Scripture reading and reflection, and embracing the love, forgiveness, and compassion offered by God. Additionally, one of the best ways to form spiritual lifestyle habits is to interact regularly with a spiritually mature friend or mentor.
Through purposeful dialogue and formal assessments, SMH physicians are serving as mentors to help patients identify ways to improve health of mind, body and spirit.
“At times, what is urgently desired may be a moment of prayer or immediate reassuring words, so we are training team members within each practice to come alongside patients in moments of need,” said Harrup. “They, along with the physicians, are really the first responders in terms of administering spiritual comfort and emotional care.”
SMH is part of Adventist Health System, a national healthcare system with more than 1,000 care facilities in nine states. On Jan. 2, 2019, they will be united under one nationwide name, AdventHealth. Click here to learn more.
— Shawnee Mission Health, located in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, is part of Adventist Health System network. A number of writers contribute SMH stories; this article originally appeared on the Mid-America Union Outlook magazine website on Nov. 21, 2018.