GWish International Consensus Conferences

Co-led by Drs. Puchalski, MD, MS and Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN, MA, the first national consensus conference, Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care, was held in 2009 and attended by interdisciplinary experts in palliative care, chaplains, clergy, spiritual directors—all from diverse backgrounds and ‎clinical settings. The outcome of this gathering was an innovative model for ‎interprofessional spiritual care, a definition of spirituality for the ‎clinical setting, and consensus-based recommendations in seven categories:

  • Spiritual Care Models
  • Spiritual Assessment of Patients and Families
  • Spiritual Treatment/Care Plans
  • Interprofessional Team
  • Training/Certification
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Quality Improvement

The findings were published in the ‎‎Journal of Palliative Medicine in October 2009 and met with tremendous interest and enthusiasm—the paper had the highest number of downloads for the journal in ‎‎2009 and has been cited in nearly 1,000 articles that have been brought to our attention. These findings also formed the basis of the recommendations provided by the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, published by the National Coalition for Hospice & Palliative Care.

Using the 2009 conference as a springboard, GWish went on to lead the U.S. National Consensus Conference on Creating More Compassionate Systems of Care (2012) and The International ‎Conference on Improving the Spiritual Dimension of Whole Person Care (2013)‎. We would like to acknowledge the support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and the Fetzer Institute for their support in helping us continue this work. Through the rigor of a two-stage Delphi process, participants achieved consensus on recommended proposed standards for interprofessional spiritual care and strategies for research, education, clinical care, policy, and community ‎engagement.  

The findings were published in the Journal of Palliative ‎Medicine in 2014 and provided the basis of the Global Network for Spirituality and Health.  These recommendations have been used by the World Health Organization (WHO), European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), and the Institutes ‎of Medicine (IOM) to ‎mainstream spirituality in healthcare‎.