By David Lichter
Five years ago, an NACC certified member, who then led a major healthcare entity, told me an observation about other NACC members that she had received from other healthcare leaders. The message was this: “Are we perceived as competent in our field? Yes. Are all of us comfortable and confident in contributing on interdisciplinary teams? No.”
I mentioned that encounter in the March/April 2012 issue of Vision, which also covered the topic of chaplains on interdisciplinary teams. Over the past five years, much has been done to foster and support our contributions to these teams. Certainly our chaplains working in palliative care have been and continue to be pioneers in the field. The Supportive Care Coalition’s priority to foster and strengthen “the presence of spiritual care in palliative care team practice and promote deeper spiritual engagement with patients and families, and within the interdisciplinary palliative care team” led to their pilot project on integrating spirituality in goals of care that involved several of our members. This pilot project provided very helpful insights into the value of chaplains on the interdisciplinary teams.
When the Common Standards were revised in 2016, the fourth area of competence that had been titled “Profession” was renamed “Organizational Leadership Competencies (OL).” The OL2 remained the same as the prior version, “Establish and maintain professional and interdisciplinary relationships,” and the NACC sub-competencies (OL2.1) remained the same, “Demonstrate the ability to build peer relationships for the purpose of collaboration and active participation in the creation and maintenance of a healthy work environment.” However, we added one more sub-competency that summarized a couple of the USCCB National Certification Standards: (OL2.2) “Demonstrate skills in organization, conflict management, leadership, or supervision of others.” While it includes four diverse organizational skills, I wonder if conflict management and leadership can be two competencies that most apply to our role on interdisciplinary teams.
Some members have told me how instrumental they were in resolving differences on their interdisciplinary team due to their appreciated relational skills. Others comment on how the leadership in spiritual care has been more desired and respected. These are wonderful signs of advancement.
I think that perhaps the most significant contribution on the interdisciplinary team is the writing and sharing of our charted notation, especially when we have developed the art of expressing our contributions in “common terms” to use the language of our colleague Gordon Hilsman, in his book, Spiritual Care in Common Terms.
In 2012, I referred to Dr. Christina Puchalski’s invitation/challenge to us chaplains when she spoke at our 2011 conference in Milwaukee. I repeat them here, as I believe they remain a good list for us to ponder. Her call to chaplains included:
- Be leaders in interdisciplinary spiritual care implementation.
- Educate the other members of the team.
- Teach courses in medical and nursing schools.
- Teach your colleagues why and when they should refer to you and then provide feedback to them about what to do next for their patients.
- Develop formation tracks in medicine, nursing, and other professional areas.
- Develop accountability measures for your profession.
- Do research: come up with creative ways to lift the stories of what we all do within a research-oriented world.
We are grateful to all our members who contributed on this topic of contributing to the interdisciplinary team. Their content evidences the development in the field.
Five years ago, I was surprised a bit by my own conclusion. I offered several “what if’s” that still hold possibility. Are we in a better place now five years later to realize these or something similar?
I would enjoy hearing “your thoughts and dreams.”