Surrogate Decision Makers in ICU: How Can Chaplains Help?

Explore research findings about the unique aspects of spiritual care in intensive care settings, including care to patients’ loved ones.

April 18, 2023 | 2 pm ET


Among the unique aspects of spiritual care in intensive care settings is the need to provide sensitive care to patients’ loved ones, who often are acting as surrogate decision makers.

In a study conducted at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University School of Medicine from 2018 to 2021, a research team found that proactive spiritual care offered to ICU surrogates improves their well-being. These findings also provide evidence for the inclusion of chaplains in palliative and intensive care teams.

Join study leader Alexia Torke and Research Chaplain Shelley Varner-Perez as they discuss the origins of this study, how it was conducted, and what lessons chaplains and healthcare executives can incorporate into their service to patients and families.


Dr. Alexia Torke is Professor of Medicine and Associate Division Chief of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine. She is also Director of the Evans Center for Religious and Spiritual Values in Healthcare and a Research Scientist with the Indiana University Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute.

Rev. Shelley Varner Perez is Senior Program Manager for Spiritual Care Research for the Academic Health Center at Indiana University Health. She is a graduate of the Transforming Chaplaincy Research Fellowship made possible by a gift from the John Templeton Foundation.