By Mary Lou O’Gorman
Several years ago, The Joint Commission published the monograph “Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient-and Family-Centered Care: A Roadmap for Hospitals.” Members of APC participated in creating a crosswalk between relevant standards and the ministry of the chaplain, and this document is an invaluable reference. Although it seemed to lay the groundwork for critical dialogue on spiritual care, it has been noted that surveyors during Joint Commission accreditation visits do not seem to consistently assess or address the provision of spiritual care.
Two years ago, at The Joint Commission liaison meeting in Chicago, Pat Appelhans of APC, Darryl Owens (then APC President) and James Taylor (representing COMISS as well as ACPE) and I met with Joint Commission representatives. We expressed concern about the lack of attention to spiritual care in site accreditation, and the failure to recognize the qualifications of the board-certified chaplain to competently address spiritual needs.
Since that time, David Lichter and I have participated in calls with Pat Appelhans, Jim Taylor, and more recently with Trace Haythorn of ACPE to identify opportunities to engage in education for these reviewers. We have communicated with Anne Bauer, a Joint Commission staff member, about the issues in the accreditation process, and we provided her with materials on chaplaincy and spiritual care. We also explored with her the potential to submit one or more newsletter articles for these accreditation personnel. She has contacted the editor of the Source, a Joint Commission publication for healthcare organizations, as the first step in publishing a document on how to recognize consistent, effective spiritual care. Further, she broached the possibility of sharing this with surveyors for hospitals, home care, and hospice. The next step is to submit the article(s), which we hope to do early this year.
Additionally, Pat Appelhans, Trace Haythorn, Jim Taylor and I attended the liaison meeting in August to understand The Joint Commission’s current focus and initiatives, which seem to be on quality and safety, as well as enhancing the accreditation experience for organizations. NACC’s ongoing collaboration with APC, ACPE, and COMISS representatives has enabled us to speak with a strong and united voice to The Joint Commission in order to advocate for the provision of spiritual care and the pivotal role of board-certified chaplains.
Mary Lou O’Gorman, BCC, is the NACC’s liaison to The Joint Commission, and retired as executive director of pastoral care services at St. Thomas Health, in Nashville, TN.