Hospitals expanding duties of chaplains

An excerpt from a Boston Globe article:

There was no shortage of work. The number of requests from patients, families, and staff for spiritual guidance in one of the country’s most technology-rich medical hubs has soared, as hospitals have expanded the role and number of chaplains.

Since 2004, requests for chaplains at the Brigham have jumped 23 percent. At Massachusetts General Hospital, requests have grown 30 percent since the hospital began tracking visits in 2006. And at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which expanded its pastoral care program last year, monthly visits are expected to rise to at least 540 this month, a 10-fold increase over the same time last year.

“Visits are just going through the roof,’’ said the Rev. Julia Dunbar, director of pastoral care and education at Beth Israel Deaconess.

Chaplains and doctors said requests – from both religious and nonreligious patients and families – are growing in part because hospitals are caring for sicker patients who are more often grappling with questions about aggressive care and death. The number of Latino patients also has grown, chaplains said, and many of these patients are deeply religious.

Also, as hospitals have expanded the role and number of chaplains, which include priests, ministers, rabbis and imams, they’ve become more visible and available.

[Posted in honor of Brent.]

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One Response to Hospitals expanding duties of chaplains

  1. Brent says:

    Thanks for the post Keith. This is encouraging news for those in the chaplain world. I hope that this will be the case in hospitals across the country. One of the fears with the current climate in healthcare is that cuts in Medicare may lead hospitals and other providers to eliminate "non-essential" staff. Often, those involved in spiritual care, i.e. chaplains, are considered non-essential. A trend towards a more holistic approach to healthcare is growing, however, and is welcomed. In my opinion, we do a disservice to patients when we do not include addressing spiritual issues as part of their treatment.

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