Two years ago, in the January-February 2011 issue of Vision, when I wrote about chaplaincy as a profession, I stressed our critical need for disciplined research to show the effectiveness of chaplaincy so that it is recognized as a profession:
A profession also builds its knowledge base through a disciplined way of gaining more insights into the impact and importance of its field. Research is part of any valid profession. How does a profession grow its knowledge base? This will be an ongoing challenge and invitation to any of us in the profession. How do we contribute to the body of knowledge about our profession? How do we contribute to the research field of our profession? We are indebted to the many dedicated researchers in the field, but they continue to encourage us to contribute in some way. If spiritual care is going to be recognized as a profession, disciplined research to gain greater understanding of and to show the effectiveness of the profession is critical. (www.nacc.org/vision/Jan_Feb_2011/ed.asp)
Just one year ago in the Jan. 30, 2012, issue of NACC Now (www.nacc.org/resources/e-news/nn_issue_114.asp), my executive director reflection began with this same quote and reflected on several initiatives in chaplaincy research. Much continues to happen in this field!
Therefore, I am exceptionally delighted that this March-April 2013 issue of Vision is now dedicated to chaplaincy research, and we have a strong, well-experienced, and well-known cadre of contributors to this issue. They are not only contributors to the field, but partners in our efforts to advance chaplaincy as a research profession, and, as George Fitchett expresses it, to ensure that it is a research-informed profession. If you have not read his section titled, “Health Care Chaplaincy as a Research-Informed Profession,” in “Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain’s Handbook” (co-authored with Dr. Daniel Grossoehme, pp.387-406), I highly recommend it. In it, they make the statement, “Professional chaplains should be “research-literate” clinicians whose practice of chaplaincy is informed (and open to change) by available evidence” (p.387). This issue of Vision is intended to support that vision!
I want to make note of two efforts by both the NACC and APC that will bear fruit for this research field. In the fall of 2011, I invited NACC members who were interested in research to become part of an NACC Research Task Force. They have been a faithful, patient, and persistent team that have been helping us to develop approaches and offerings in chaplaincy research. Many of them are contributing to this Vision issue. Roger Vandervest has offered and is now providing on a quarterly basis an audio conference devoted to analyzing and discussing a research article. If you are interested in signing up for this audio conference, please notify Cindy Bridges (email@example.com). The Research Task Force is committed to helping us implement the two research-related objectives of Goal II of our NACC 2012-2017 Strategic Plan.
Also, in the past few months, the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC link) has established a Research Task Force to advance chaplaincy research. They invited me, as a representative of NACC, and Naomi Kalish of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC link) to be members of the task force in order that the APC efforts would link our NACC and NAJC efforts, and that we can together map out a plan for advancing chaplaincy research. I am sharing the work of the APC Task Force with the NACC Task Force. Our NACC member, Kate Piderman, PhD, BCC, who serves on both the APC and NACC Task Forces, also aids our collaborative efforts. These are good steps for the profession.
Finally, I call your attention to the most recent issue of the Catholic Health Association’s Health Progress that includes two articles on chaplaincy research. One article is by Kate Piderman and her Mayo Clinic research team that provides their findings on the unique needs of Catholic patients. It is very informative, and shows the importance of knowing the spiritual and religious needs of patients for shaping spiritual care. The other article is more an overview of chaplaincy and research that I wrote as a companion piece to the Mayo article. Together I hope these two articles can offer healthcare leaders who read Health Progress some perspectives on chaplaincy as a developing, research-informed profession.
So, the challenge to us in the NACC is how we are to each become research-literate. I wonder if reading a research article monthly is unreasonable. I greatly appreciate the work of our Vision Editorial Advisory Panel member, Austine Duru, BCC, who has done a great service to us by providing in each Vision research articles for our consideration. I would also invite each of you, as you come across research that pertains to or impacts spiritual care to share them with us, so we can make them available in NACC Now or Vision.
George Fitchett, who contributes an article on evidence-based pastoral care to this issue of Vision, 10 years ago wrote a challenging article on vision for chaplaincy research that included specific steps and timelines for achieving the vision. (Fitchett, G., 2002) Health care chaplaincy as a research-informed profession: How we get there.
L. Vandercreek (ed.), “Profession chaplaincy and clinical pastoral education should become more scientific: Yes and No.” (pp.67-72) Haworth Pastoral Press). Part of me thinks many if not most of those steps are still appropriate and needed. Take a moment and read or reread the 2002 article and see if you agree!
David A. Lichter, D.Min.
Executive Director, NACC