Historically, Pastoral Care meant administering last rites or offering spiritual comfort at the bedside of a dying or terminally ill patient, often being the last to be with them before death. American and European accounts of the bravery of these chaplains on the battlefield and at frontline triage centers has always amazed us. Many have been awarded bravery medals for their fearlessness under fire, including 9 who were awarded the Medal of Honor. The modern role of Hospital Chaplaincy has grown from this battlefield experience. There is much greater recognition that physical and spiritual well-being are connected.

Hospitals are increasingly embracing the integration of spiritual care into the patient care team. In 2002, only 53% of hospitals offered pastoral care.  That number jumped to 70% in 2015 with collaboration most often seen in teaching hospitals or those with religious affiliations. The different levels of education, degrees, licensure, and experience required are still open for discussion. “The ideal is to have board-certified chaplains who are considered members of the healthcare team,” says Christine Puchalski, M.D., a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and director of the GW Institute for Spirituality and Health. The Association of American Medical Colleges published a compelling article on the topic of chaplaincy/hospital integration and indexes it under the category of Patient Care.

Hospital Chaplain responsibilities typically include:

  • Grief care and loss
  • Risk screening for religious/spiritual conflicts that may compromise care or recovery
  • Facilitate organ/tissue donation
  • Crisis intervention/conflict resolution
  • Communication with caregivers/family/staff
  • Referrals to internal/external resources
  • Decision making assistance/patient advocacy

Professional chaplains are theologically and clinically trained clergy or laypersons whose work reflects a sensitivity to multi-cultural/faith realities, respect for patients’ rights, spiritual and religious preferences, an understanding of the impact of illness on a patient and their caregivers as well as knowledge of healthcare organization, accountability and dynamics. hospital chaplains offer spiritual care to those in need in order to mobilize spiritual resources to help patients cope more effectively. It has been long recognized that spirituality helps people cope with illness, anxiety, and hopelessness through positivity and the power of prayer.

NHS Solutions can provide Interim Hospital Chaplains who are immediately ready to step into an established, ongoing chaplaincy program and make a difference. Our Interim Chaplaincy Leaders are also able to initiate a new hospital chaplaincy program and integrate it into an overall patient care program. Contact our recruiting department to discuss the unique needs of your hospital.

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