Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Capturing religious identity during hospital admission: a valid practice in our increasingly secular society?

David Glenister A B and Martin Prewer A

A Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Vic. 3050, Australia. Email: martin@prewer.com

B Corresponding author. Email: David.glenister2@mh.org.au

Australian Health Review - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH16139
Submitted: 6 July 2016  Accepted: 13 September 2016   Published online: 21 October 2016

Abstract

Objective Most major Victorian hospitals include religious identity in routine admission demographic questions. However, approximately 20% of admissions do not have their religious identity recorded. At the Royal Melbourne Hospital this missing 20% was surveyed throughout 2014–15 for two reasons: (1) to enable patient care; and (2) to provide an insight into the significance of religious identity for patients. There is scarce literature on this subject, so the present mixed-methods study, including a qualitative component, will start to bridge the gap.

Methods Mixed methods, cross-sectional survey.

Results The quantitative component of the study found that religious identity was important for a significant proportion of our diverse population and that, in general, demographics were congruent with Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census figures. The qualitative component also revealed significant complexity behind religious identity labels, which the census is unable to capture, providing an insight into the requirements of our growing multicultural population.

Conclusions This study illustrates that religious identity is important for a majority of Royal Melbourne’s culturally diverse inpatients. This data would seem to give the practice of collecting religious identity data on admission new credence, especially as our culturally and linguistically diverse populations increase. In order to understand these nuances and provide appropriate care, skilled spiritual screening and assessment would appear to be not optional, but rather necessary in our increasingly complex healthcare future.

What is known about the topic? A search of the literature using related terms (religious, religion, spiritual identity, care) revealed that there is scarce literature on the subject of religious identity and its importance and meaning to patients.

What does this paper add? This mixed methods study approaches the issue of the importance of religious identity from the patient perspective via a spiritual screening survey that included a qualitative component, so will begin to bridge a gap in knowledge.

What are the implications for practitioners? Improved understanding of the complexity of the spiritual needs of our Victorian multicultural population and commensurate emphasis on the need for individual spiritual screening and assessment.


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