Spiritual Care in Practice: Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy
Edited by George Fitchett and Steve Nolan
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2015)
By Juli Dickelman
How do we chaplains articulate the layers of knowledge we carry with us? How do we describe our depth of understanding into the complexity of the human being and the spirit that animates her? How do we value and communicate our unique expertise on the interdisciplinary team? If you would like to be both inspired and challenged, I recommend Spiritual Care in Practice: Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy.
Nine case studies from pediatrics, psychiatry, and palliative care demonstrate the importance of spiritual issues in clinical care; analyze what the chaplain does in identifying and addressing spiritual issues; and demonstrate the value in detailed self-reflection and dialogue with peers and other specialists. The editors — George Fitchett, well-known as a leader in spiritual care research, and Steve Nolan, a palliative care chaplain and educator in England — challenge us to be leaders, to develop theories specific to our field, to do research, and to actively involve ourselves in quality improvements.
Fitchett, who will be among the plenary speakers at the NACC conference in Chicago in April, argues in his introduction that ours needs to be a research-informed profession. Case studies such as these provide a foundation for research. They also can help train new chaplains and educate our interdisciplinary colleagues.
Each case study is followed by responses from an experienced chaplain and another professional from a field related to the case. The respondents often highlight theoretical frameworks that the chaplain may not have even recognized.
I entered into a dialogue with the chaplain while reading a case and often found myself challenged and surprised as I listened to the respondents. Professionals who are very good at what we do and who have been in the field for a long time may be at risk for being able to do our work with our eyes closed. Engaging with case studies provides an opportunity to be shaken out of rote or habitual methods.
I was very impressed with the citing of research, developmental theories, theology, and cross-references to other disciplines. Like the metaphorical iceberg, the bulk of a chaplain’s expertise is often hidden beneath the surface, unseen by others and perhaps even concealed from ourselves. Although I know we chaplains are academically well-prepared, capable of honest self-reflection, well-trained, and deeply experienced, I do wonder if we declare our fluency nearly enough — on our interdisciplinary teams, through our charting, in journals and other writing.
This book demonstrates that case studies can assist chaplains as we continue to evolve as a professional discipline and continue to argue for funding and places at the table.
Juli Dickelman is a chaplain educator at Providence Healthcare in Spokane, WA.