By David A. Lichter, D.Min.
In 2012, the NACC leadership began discussions with the Supportive Care Coalition, a national coalition of Catholic healthcare organizations, who believe that palliative care is a hallmark of Catholic healthcare, intrinsic to its healing mission. Palliative care embodies an enduring commitment to provide compassionate, high-quality, person-centered care for the seriously ill and their loved ones by anticipating, preventing, and relieving suffering. Many NACC chaplains have been called to serve on palliative care interdisciplinary teams, and many already work in hospice settings. Many organizations are now requiring some form of specialty certification to work in these specialized settings.
In May 2013, the NACC Board of Directors approved the development of a specialty certification in palliative care and hospice. The Certification Standards and Procedures for Palliative Care and Hospice were produced through the diligence and dedication of a work group with representatives of NACC Certification Commission, NACC Standards Commission, and the executive director of the Supportive Care Coalition. The NACC Board of Directors approved the result in October 2013.
An applicant for this specialty certification must already be board-certified with the NACC. Thus, these standards do not further include expectations regarding Catholic ministry identity, but they do cover the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare. (Part Two, Section 6.0).
In spring 2014, the NACC initiated a pilot project with six seasoned palliative-care chaplains to test the specialty standards. In June, several interviews were conducted with NACC members who participated in the pilot project.
Much was learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the process. The implementation team decided not to revise the standards, but to focus revisions on how to describe the intent behind and approach to this specialty certification, the interview itself, and what materials to ask for. Those revisions were approved at the NACC Certification Commission’s November 2014 meeting and are now available here.
The Palliative Care and Hospice Specialty Certification Standards were part of the standards that were approved by the USCCB Subcommittee.