Risks, Benefits, and Recommendations for Pastoral Care on Inpatient Psychiatric Units: A Systematic Review

Steven Pennybaker, Patrick Hemming, Durga Roy, Blair Anton, Margaret S. Chisolm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: A systematic review was conducted of the biomedical literature regarding pastoral care (PaC) providers on inpatient psychiatric units with the aim of answering 3 questions: (1) What are the risks and benefits of PaC providers' presence on inpatient psychiatric units? (2) What are current recommendations for integration of PaC providers into a psychiatric team? and (3) What gaps exist in the literature? Methods: PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus were searched from the start of each database to July 9, 2014 using terms related to PaC providers and inpatient psychiatry. Two independent reviewers performed full-text reviews of each article identified by independent review of all titles/ abstracts from the electronic search and by a hand search of articles included in reference lists. Inclusion criteria were: English-language article, published in a peer-reviewed journal, and focus on a PaC provider working in a psychiatric hospital setting. One author performed data extraction. Results: Forty-nine articles were identified by electronic (84%) and hand search (16%), 18 of which were evaluative studies: 5 qualitative and 13 quantitative. Most of the literature viewed integration of PaC providers in inpatient treatment teams as beneficial. Potential harms were noted and mitigation strategies suggested, including providing training to PaC providers concerning psychiatric illness, clearly defining roles, and enhancing team integration. None of the articles reported outcomes data. Conclusions: Psychiatric inpatients often have unmet spiritual needs. Although the literature suggests potential benefits of PaC providers for psychiatric inpatients, more rigorous studies are needed to establish these benefits as efficacious. The authors of this review recommend the cautious integration of PaC providers into the psychiatric inpatient care team.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-381
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of psychiatric practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • inpatient psychiatry
  • multidisciplinary care
  • pastoral care
  • spiritual care
  • spirituality
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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