By Prudence Hopkins, MA, BCC
Imagine a body of information assembled through applied research that proves benefit of pastoral care interventions working towards the healing and recovery of patients.
Imagine other disciplines, curious about how pastoral care might approach a particular problem, benefiting from what we have already studied, analyzed and proven to be best practice.
According to Gerald Gundersen, who offered a workshop titled “Using Your Best Practices to Aid Research and Pastoral Care” at the 2013 NACC National Conference in Pittsburgh, research is critical in moving pastoral care forward as a profession. Gundersen, who is chaplain at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington in Washington, D.C., and serves on NACC’s Research Task Force, challenges chaplaincy to identify, research, and share its findings in a way that will permit pastoral care “a place at the table” with the other disciplines on the treatment team.
In doing so, we develop ourselves as professionals, add to the knowledge base of positive expected outcomes (best practices), and validate ourselves as a viable, bona fide profession that fosters mutual support and understanding among disciplines. Consequently, what we learn has relevance to both ourselves and others.
Research, as defined by Gundersen, is process of discovery, leading to insight and understanding. A hypothetical thorny problem is identified. How to resolve it? Using a triangle as a graphic, Gundersen explains the procedure:
- Brainstorm for helpful suggestions.
- Next, identify what might be promising best practices.
- Design a model for scientific testing and gathering data.
- Demonstrate if “promising” practice is best practice, which is now evidence-based vs. anecdotal.
Having arrived at evidenced-based best practice, what is the logical consequence? Make this information available: publish, offer for placement on APC, ACPE, NACC, NAJC websites. Show how this might be useful in other disciplines.
Best practices can be spotted by positive responses from patients, family members and the healthcare team. And Gundersen asserts that best practices can always be improved upon.
The importance of research is well established. Gundersen’s presentation underscored the benefit of greater visibility and credibility for professions in which research is one of the pillars upon which the profession stands.
Prudence Hopkins, MA, BCC, is staff chaplain at Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, VA.