To heal and restore broken bodies: A retrospective, descriptive study of the role and impact of pastoral care in the treatment of patients with burn injury

Charles Scott Hultman, Michael A. Saou, S. Tanner Roach, Suzanne Cloyd Hultman, Bruce A. Cairns, Shirley Massey, Harold G. Koenig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Introduction: Despite advances in resuscitation, resurfacing, and reconstruction, recovery in burn patients often depends upon emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual healing. We characterized the spiritual needs of burn patients to help identify resources necessary to optimize recovery. Methods: We performed a retrospective review of all patients admitted to a regional, accredited burn center, in 2011. We accessed multiple clinical, financial, and administrative databases, collected demographic data, including religious affiliation, and recorded the number and type of pastoral care visits. Outcome measures included length of stay (LOS), physician and facility charges, and mortality. We compared patients who had a pastoral care visit with those who did not, as well as patients with a religious affiliation with those who had no or an unknown affiliation. Results: During the study period, our burn center admitted 1338 patients, 314 of whom were visited by chaplains, for a total of 1077 encounters (3.43 visits per patient seen). Most frequent interventions were prayer, social support, and spiritual counseling. Compared to patients who had no visit, patients who saw a chaplain had a larger total body surface area burn, longer LOS, higher charges, and higher mortality (10.2% vs. 0.78%, P G 0.001). Patients who had a religious affiliation had slightly lower mortality than patients with unknown or no religious affiliation (0.87% vs. 3.19%), but this did not reach statistical significance. Conclusions: In burn patients, utilization of pastoral care appears to be linked to size of burn, financial charges, and length of stay, with religious affiliation serving as a possible marker for improved survival. Plastic surgeons and burn providers should consider and address the spiritual needs of burn patients, as a component of recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014



  • Burn injury
  • Pastoral care
  • Religion
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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