By David Lichter
Each of us in some small way, if not a dramatic and tragic way, has experienced some sort of disaster. When we reflect back on it, we recall how disorienting it was and how it infected every part of our life – emotional, spiritual, physical, financial, etc. How filled with anxiety and terror we were; how preoccupying it was! Perhaps it resulted in the dislocation of home and disconnection of relationship.
Spirituality is defined in the Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, Third Edition, as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose, and the way they experience their connectedness to the moment, to the self, to others, to nature, and/or to the significant or sacred.” So when we consider the experience of disaster, it cannot but be inextricably tied to one’s spirituality as one’s whole framework of meaning and purpose, and connectedness, is threatened and disordered.
From this perspective, we are all the more grateful to our NACC members who have committed themselves to not only being trained and available for disaster spiritual care, but also surrender abruptly their normalcy to throw themselves into the lives of those who have experienced disaster. While they willingly give themselves to this ministry, they still encounter the fallout of the experience as people sort through the debris and loss, try to make meaning, and seek connection to the self, other, what nature has done, and how God is involved. Thank you, our brothers and sisters, for this ministry!
The Business Side of Chaplaincy
I recently met a businessman at a local fundraiser. He is head of a firm that provides diverse services to healthcare systems, particularly working on data support systems within the Accountable Care Organizations. When I explained what I did, he showed his interest and belief in the value of spiritual care. I mentioned that some research evidences the impact of spiritual care (or the lack of addressing spiritual/religious distress) on health outcomes, length of stay, treatment choices. He quickly commented, “I am not aware of such research.” He asked if I would send him some articles, which I did. Within days I heard from his secretary, and we scheduled a meeting.
When we spoke further, he commented that we need to identify the data sets to track. Right now, we do not have them. We both agreed that if the data of chaplains’ work does not somehow tie to improved patient well-being, fewer readmissions, less expensive and risky treatments, and more reliance on community resources, it will be a tough ride ahead to keep chaplaincy. He was a supporter, but from a business perspective, needs to have the data to advocate for it. Sound familiar?
If you did not recently read an article in the APC E-News, February 2014, Volume 16, No.1, by James Backing, M.Div., I encourage you to do so. As a businessman, he too provides an outside look at chaplaincy. He is the director of clinical integration at Thyssen-Meinhoff Group in Troy, MI, and has been an affiliate member of APC. He observes the challenges to making a case for chaplaincy, but believes chaplains can do so. He notes that research into the profession is only a limited part of the value equation. He states that chaplains must be able to make their case as, “We know exactly who we are, exactly what we do and have the data that demonstrates why we do it.” He makes the plea that “the least expected position for chaplains to take is that they can leverage the emotional intimacy and spiritual connection they have with clients to ensure an improved sense of well-being, a reduction in litigation and a reliance on community resources rather than hospital visits.”
So, these two businessmen are on the same page and provide the challenge we hear every day directly or indirectly. As hours are reduced and positions eliminated, we need to press forward on all fronts to build the case. In that light, we are also grateful to HealthCare Chaplaincy Network’s efforts to drive recent research efforts with funding through the John Templeton Foundation and presenting results of the six research projects at the Caring for the Human Spirit: Driving the Research Agenda for Spiritual Care in Health Care Conference, March 31-April 3, 2014 in New York. While the program is long, the conference fee is very reasonable. They are also offering a virtual conference/webcast option. This will be a very worthwhile, even historic event.