Monday, August 18, 2014

Standards of Practice for Professional Chaplains in Hospice and Palliative Care Part 1

For the next several days we will look at the Standards of Practice for Chaplains in the hospice and palliative care setting. It is the opinion of this writer that it is timely that these Standards were compiled giving credibility to the work of the hospice Chaplain. As I review history, Standards of Practice seemed to follow some type of crisis in spiritual care or lack thereof. In the 1940’s the Rev. Russell L. Dicks gathered a committee and formulated a set of Standards for hospital Chaplains. Why was this necessary? According to his correspondence: "It has come to the attention of the American Protestant Hospital Association that the spiritual needs of many patients, both in private and public institutions, are not receiving proper attention. In some instances patients are not receiving any spiritual care, in others they are receiving altogether too much.” There was a need presented and a need met through collaborative efforts. With thankfulness, I embrace the Standards of Practice for Hospice and Palliative Care Chaplaincy (compiled by the Association of Professional Chaplains, through whom I am Board Certified). For today’s thought we will look only at the Preamble. It is rich in truth and practicality: Chaplaincy care is grounded in initiating, developing, and deepening a mutual and empathic relationship with patients, families and staff. The development of genuine relationships is at the core of chaplaincy care and underpins, even enables all the dimensions of chaplaincy care to occur. It is assumed that all of these Standards are addressed within the context of such relationships. While the fields of hospice and palliative care differ, it is recognized that both specialties of care are on a continuum that is complementary and collaborative. These Standards of Practice incorporate both the distinctions and the similarities of chaplaincy care within each specialty. The trajectory of hospice spiritual care flies high based upon the relationship the Chaplain is able to build and maintain with the patient and family. In this writer’s experience, it matters little that I share a similar faith background with the patients I am serving. What they have to see is sincerity and compassion in me. There is a beautiful word picture in the etymology of the word ‘sincere.’ Sincere is a compound Latin word: sin=without; cere=wax. The concept goes to the days and times when in the agora a dishonest merchant would attempt to sell a cracked earthenware pot by melting wax in the crack and then when the painting and finishing of the pot was complete, it looked like any other pot. The truth would come out when the pot held its first meal and dripped all over the fire when heated. For the hospice Chaplain looking all neat and professional, the sincerity will reveal itself in the confines of the crisis. "No wax" means effective chaplaincy. That’s our goal … a “no wax” chaplaincy that is effective. The actual Standards will help us define the term “effective.” More to come ….

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