There have been dramatic changes in the field of healthcare as it relates to hospitals. Many services that were handled by hospitals are now handled by clinics and outpatient facilities. The majority of hospital patients are now those facing major surgery, trauma victims, those that are critically and terminally ill. Many hospitals also have a large volunteer staff. This staff can include volunteer chaplains. Many hospitals will provide a comprehensive orientation and training as it relates to hospital management, administration and the basic hospital procedures and patient management along with hospital protocols. Many times as a volunteer chaplain you will be assigned to shadow a certified chaplain with experience at that hospital.
As a chaplain you are there to serve and be a care giver from a spiritual aspect. It is vitally important to establish a good report with the administrator, doctors and nurses in the hospital. Hospital staff will welcome a new chaplain because they have had a very positive experience with chaplains in the past. Remember you are there to meet the needs of all types of religious and nonreligious patients. Remember that you are a chaplain and not a medical care provider. You should also not promote your denomination or your specific religious background. You should never be critical of other religions or try to evangelize.
The purpose of the chaplaincy program in hospitals is to minister to patients and sometimes staff at the hospital.
Chaplains are God’s representatives to patients in the hospital. Patients need to know that someone cares for them and that God cares for them and as a chaplain you emphasize that with your presence. Not only do you minister to the patients but you will also deal with family members and friends especially in the areas of severe sickness or death. You may even be called upon to officiate someone’s funeral.
It is very important to maintain confidentiality and to be human with a warm smile, cheery greeting and a general reassurance based on faith. Do not interrupt the hospital staff when they are performing their duties or caring for one of the patients in the room and remember to greet all new arrivals that come in and everyone that is in the room when you enter. Visit each patient on a one to one basis. Greet each person separately be sensitive to their privacy. Be conscious of your bedside manners and do not sit on the bed and remember to use proper hand sanitation. Do not squeeze a person’s hand or shoulder and never kiss a a patient. Never argue with a patient. Instead, be supportive and caring. Use active listening skills and remember to affirm, bless, comfort, edify and encourage.
Job Description for a Hospice Chaplain
Hospice chaplains provide spiritual support to terminally ill patients and their families. Chaplains generally work in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities but may also visit patients in their homes. These professionals make spiritual assessments of patients, taking into account mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stresses, and respond with appropriate counseling and care.
Chaplains are members of the interdisciplinary team, which is a group of specialists and professionals that provides guidance and support. Accordingly, they assist the medical staff in developing an individualized plan of care for each patient. Individualized plans may include daily spiritual consultations and performance of sacraments.
Hospice Chaplain’s Duties
A hospice chaplain’s primary responsibility is to provide emotional and spiritual counseling to patients and their families. Other duties may include submitting written reports on patient interactions and acting as liaisons between members of the clergy and hospice patients. Chaplains don’t replace clergy members but rather are there to offer further support and communicate the needs of the patient. Additionally, chaplains provide bereavement services, including phone calls, visits, and memorial services, to family members upon the death of a patient.