Recent Research Publications

Faith Community Research: Faith Affiliation and Preferences of Patients in Hospitals

A research project in collaboration with La Trobe University and five hospital sites to ascertain the spiritual care preferences of patients with a faith affiliation.

This study follows on from a scoping review undertaken in 2018 that developed a proposal to investigate the proportion of Victorian hospital patients who are affiliated with a specific faith and their preferences for spiritual care. A State-wide survey in 2019 provided information on the proportion of patients who identify with specific faith affiliations.  

The current phase of this project involves checking faith affiliation against the patients’ hospital record and getting a better understanding of patient preference for engagement. How many of those who claim a particular faith affiliation wish to receive spiritual care from someone of the same affiliation? The study will also investigate the attributes of spiritual carers that are important to patients. 

Investigating the provision of spiritual care in health care facilities from staff and patient perspectives – a joint research project with LaTrobe University 

Phase 1:

Part A: Attitudes and Understandings of Patients and Family Members Regarding Spiritual Care in Hospital – semi-structured interviews of patients and family members at one site – this project has been completed.

Publication: Gardner, F., Tan, H., Rumbold, B. (2018). What Spirituality Means for Patients and Families in Health Care. Journal of Religion and Health. Vol 59(1) 195-203 [

Part B: Attitudes and Understandings of staff across the healthcare organisation about spiritual care and its provision at their facility – semi-structured interviews across three sites – completed.

Publication: Tan, H., Rumbold, B., Gardner, F., Glenister, D., Forrest, A., Bowen, L. How is Spiritual Care/Pastoral Care understood and provided in general hospitals in Victoria Australia? Staff Perspectives. Journal for the Study of Spirituality. (in press).

Phase 2:

Investigating the patient reported outcomes of spiritual care provided to inpatients. The study utilised the Scottish Patient Reported Outcome Measure, as well as gathering data about patients’ experience of receiving spiritual care – this project has been completed.

Publication: Karimi, L.; Tan, H. Validation of The Patient Reported Outcome Measure of Spiritual Care (PROM) in an Australian Setting. Health and Spiritual Care Chaplaincy. (in press).  

Publication: Understanding the Outcomes of Spiritual Care as Experienced by Patients -- is currently under review.

International Survey: The Impact of COVID19 on the Practice of Spiritual Care in the Health Care Service

We have recently teamed with research groups in both Europe and the United States to conduct an international survey investigating the impact of COVID19 on the provision of spiritual care in healthcare systems across the globe.  The survey is out. Following data analyses, we expect to be able to describe this impact, compare different locations, and understand better how practices will change as a result of what is being learnt in this current crisis. 

The Narratives Shaping Spiritual Care in Victorian Public Hospitals

A current PhD project by Cheryl Holmes to identify and explore the influences that have shaped the development of spiritual care in Victorian public hospitals. The PhD is being completed through publications and several of the articles listed below.


Stakeholder views on the role of spiritual care in Australian hospitals: an exploratory study

Author: Cheryl Holmes, Spiritual Health Association CEO. 

Journal: Health Policy, (2018) 122, 389-395

Abstract: Research increasingly demonstrates the contribution of spiritual care to patient experience, wellbeing and health outcomes. Responsiveness to spiritual needs is recognised as a legitimate component of quality health care. Yet there is no consistent approach to the models and governance of spiritual care across hospitals in Australia. This is consistent with the situation in other developed countries where there is increased attention to identifying best practice models for spiritual care in health. This study explores the views of stakeholders in Australian hospitals to the role of spiritual care in hospitals. A self-completion questionnaire comprising open and closed questions was distributed using a snowball sampling process. Analysis of 477 complete questionnaires indicated high levels of agreement with ten policy statements and six policy objectives. Perceived barriers to spiritual care related to: terminology and roles, education and training, resources, and models of care. Responses identified the issues to inform a national policy agenda including attention to governance and policy structures and clear delineation of roles and scope of practice with aligned education and training models. The inclusion of spiritual care as a significant pathway for the provision of patient-centred care is noted. Further exploration of the contribution of spiritual care to wellbeing, health outcomes and patient experience is invited.

Contact:  Cheryl Holmes 

Towards National Consensus: Spiritual Care in the Australian Healthcare Context

Author: Cheryl Holmes, Spiritual Health Association CEO

Journal: Religions (2018), 9, 379

Abstract: This article presents the outcomes from the National Consensus Conference Enhancing Quality and Safety: Spiritual Care in Health held in June 2017. Five principles for the design and delivery of spiritual care services and ten policy statements are presented. 

Contact: Cheryl Holmes 

Click to download 

Is there a role for faith communities in the provision of spiritual care in health?

Author: Cheryl Holmes, Spiritual Health Association CEO

Journal: Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, (2019) Volume 9, April–June, 7-11.

Abstract: This article explores the role of faith communities in health care in the context of the changing demographics in Australia and the increasing numbers of people who nominate that they have no religious affiliation. It seeks to raise questions and to reflect on the changing models of spiritual care needed to meet the needs of current and future populations. 

Contact: Cheryl Holmes 

Frames for the Future: Developing Continuing Education and Professional Development Programs for Spiritual Care Practitioners: A Perspective from Victoria Australia.

Author: Shinen Wong and Heather Tan

Journal: The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counselling (2017) 7 (4), 237-256.

Abstract: This article examines the educational issues in ongoing professional education for spiritual care practitioners.  A meta-evaluation data over four years (2013-2016) of one such monthly program conducted by Spiritual Health Association was examined. Recommendations are made to support healthcare managers and spiritual care educators in designing and developing continuing education programs for spiritual care practitioners in a variety of other professional health and care contexts.

Contact:   Heather Tan 

Building Capacity for Spiritual Care and Wellbeing in the Mental Health Workforce

Author: Jenny Greenham and Cheryl Holmes

Journal: Newparadigm, The Australian Journal on Psychosocial Rehabilitation (2017) Summer, 11-15

Abstract: This article describes the implementation and evaluation of a training program developed by Jenny for Spiritual Health Association and delivered to mental health workers in Gippsland. The East Gippsland Mental Health Initiative aimed to build the capacity of mental health workers to respond to the spiritual needs of their clients/patients. Its results, supported by other studies, show that workers can benefit from training in the area of spirituality and spiritual care, and that this could provide positive outcomes for clients/patients.

Contact: Jenny Greenham 

Click to download 

Review of Literature June 2015

Author: Michelle Morgan & Cheryl Holmes

Abstract: This document records a literature review undertaken in 2015 to assist us in the development of the collaborative research project with La Trobe University and six different healthcare facilities. The main topics reviewed are.

  • What do Spiritual Care Practitioners do? 
  • How is spiritual health measured? 
  • What are the outcomes of spiritual care? 
  • Spiritual care - a team approach 
  • How do spiritual care staff report their activities? 

The outcomes of the search of data in the period 2005-2015, over a broad range of data bases, has been divided into the above topics for easy access and where available, abstracts of relevant articles are recorded in tables in the appendices.

Contact: Cheryl Holmes 

Click to download

For more information contact Cuong La.