Although providing spiritual support to patients has received growing attention in the nursing and medical literature, little has been written about how to screen new patients to determine whether a more in-depth spiritual assessment is in order. In many hospitals, newly admitted patients are simply asked whether they are affiliated with a specific religious denomination. This question alone provides little insight into potential spiritual needs that may require attention. Questions that inquire about patients' religious practices and the importance of religion in their lives may be more useful as screening questions to identify the need for a more detailed spiritual assessment. As a part of a longitudinal study on decision control preferences in terminal illness, data were collected on enrollment about religious practices and the importance of religion in a group of subjects recently diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. This study examines cross-sectionally the relationship between religious practices, importance of religion, and demographic variables. Recommendations are presented on how health professionals can use the responses to these questions to determine the need for further spiritual assessment and intervention.
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