By David Lichter
When we considered devoting an issue of Vision to the value of chaplaincy, my first thought was, “Haven’t we done that recently?” However, when going back to the Vision archives, we do not find the topic at all. (By the way, as I looked at the list of themes of the past five years, I was amazed at all we have covered! There are treasures there – pertinent and substantive!) The nearest topic was on the “awareness of chaplaincy” in July-August 2010, nearly four years ago, and the focus of that issue was more on promoting chaplaincy as a vocation! I realized the familiarity of the topic is because it has been top of mind of us for the past three years as a strategic priority.
Our Goal II of the 2012-2017 NACC Strategic Plan is “to increase the awareness of the value of professional chaplaincy among key constituents.” The three objectives focus on materials and programs; communicating current research on the value of chaplaincy; and partnering with associations and clinical research facilities to engage members in research. So, the timing of this Vision topic is opportune. While the articles in this Vision touch on various aspects of chaplaincy’s value, I would like to highlight some of our efforts towards our Goal II.
Since I arrived at the NACC, the value of chaplaincy has been high priority. In October 2007 the CHA/NACC sponsored the Omaha Summit. Over 50 Catholic healthcare professionals, including chaplains, sought a consensus on metrics to determine the productivity and effectiveness of chaplaincy. The premise was and remains that we assert our value as we measure our effectiveness. A metrics task force was formed as a result of that summit, but could not arrive at a consensus. Yet efforts continue within the CHA Pastoral Care Advisory Committee to share leading practices on measuring quality, determining staffing, and communicating the value of chaplaincy.
In the May 12, 2008 issue of NACC Now, I reflected on advocating for the profession, and offered six areas for consideration for the next five years, and (yikes!) that date passed last May! Two of them especially struck me (we continue our efforts!):
A more effective, persuasive way to:
- Answer the question “How do we know we are doing it?”
- Show the “value add” of spiritual care by being able to demonstrate its worth through improved methods of measuring its effectiveness.
- Chart activity in a way that aligns with and aids all members of the care team. (Standards 106.9, 305.5)
- A more widely cultivated professional mindset among spiritual care providers (Standard 305) that emphasizes:
- A resolute dedication and ongoing commitment to improving one’s gifts and competency for the sake of the patient/resident/client being served.
- A willingness to “give away” the profession through open discussion and dialogue with, and teaching and mentoring of, other healthcare colleagues to understand what we do and outcomes we expect, rather than trying to hold onto our work under the aura of mystery or out of fear of being misunderstood.
- An attitude that moves from “I am afraid of losing my job” to “I will get better at my job by training and delegating to others what I can in order to stay focused on the key aspects of my work, thus better serving our patients/residents/clients.”
We have tried over the years to develop materials, but we continue to work on this. Hopefully you have clicked on the “Advancing Chaplaincy” icon on the homepage of our website and then clicked “Ministry Awareness Materials” to find our video, PowerPoints, articles, elevator speeches, and other materials that might be useful to you. We will continue to add and update this material. I had a session of communicating the value of chaplaincy at the 2013 National Conference and on our June 2013 audio conference. But we have more to do.
What we have not done well yet is actually work individually with you to train you to speak about the profession in a passionate, professional, convincing way. We invited you in NACC Now during 2013 Pastoral Care Week to try to use elevator speeches from the NACC website, and also to share your elevator speeches about our ministry. We received two replies from members. Can it be because we do not have one? What more can we do to assist with this? Please let me know.
Research is the topic of two of the three Goal II objectives. The March-April 2013 Vision was dedicated to research, and there are excellent articles in that issue. The value of chaplaincy is being pursued through research professionals and our own chaplains. Most recently, March 31-April 3, 2014, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network sponsored a conference titled Caring for the Human: Driving the Research Agenda for Spiritual Care in Health Care that shared the results of six major research studies on spiritual care that represent the latest, most comprehensive body of research. Chaplains were part of each of the research teams. This is an exciting, promising, and important advance in research to advance the value of chaplaincy.
Our work continues, friends, as we seek ways to name and share the value of chaplaincy. Thank you for all you do to live the value daily in your ministry to the aging, ill, and dying and all your colleagues who work with you.
David A. Lichter, D.Min.