Monday, August 25, 2014

Standards of Practice for Professional Chaplain in Hospice and Palliative Care—Part 3

Section 3 of the Standards of Practice is critical to growth and chaplaincy development. It would be fairly easy for a hospice Chaplain who is busy meeting the needs of his or her caseload to fall into a rut of foregoing reading and personal growth. This particular Section reminds the Chaplain that the goal is competent Chaplaincy care. There is no such thing as a one size fits all type of hospice chaplaincy. Because of the diversity in hospice chaplaincy, continuing education related to culture, religion, family dynamics, counseling, disease process, medical terminology, research processes, personal devotion and spiritual growth, and contemporary application of Chaplaincy interventions are but a few of the arenas the hospice Chaplain will find enriching and instructional. Section 3 reads as follows: Section 3: Maintaining Competent Chaplaincy Care Standard 11, Continuous Quality Improvement: The chaplain seeks and creates opportunities to enhance the quality of chaplaincy practice. Standard 12, Research: The chaplain practices evidence-based care, including ongoing evaluation of new practices, and, when appropriate, contributes to or conducts research. Standard 13, Knowledge and Continuing Education: The chaplain takes responsibility for continued professional development. The chaplain demonstrates a working knowledge of current theory and practice. There are three words in Section 3 that encompass a great deal of hospice chaplaincy and that inform my ministry. These words are: quality, practice, and responsibility. At Cornerstone Hospice, I wrote the Chaplain handbook and titled it, “Toward Excellence in Spiritual Care.” I specifically used the phrasing “toward excellence” as ‘toward’ infers movement in the direction of. Stale and obligatory chaplaincy won’t work … ever. The hospice Chaplain is committed to quality in spiritual/pastoral care. This is our calling and this calling demands the best the Chaplain can provide. ‘Practice’ suggests to me that hospice Chaplaincy is as much art as it is science. There are nuances to care such as how we listen, how we deliver care, the language we use, the demeanor we portray, the tone of voice, the facial expressions, the body language, the way we identify with patients and family members/caregivers. Practice also suggests growth in ability to deliver evidence-based care. One day the light will come on and the Chaplain recognizes that for all those years she was actually delivering evidenced-based care, it just wasn’t called that. That yes, the “expected outcome” was relief of anxiety; or reconciliation with a sibling, family, faith community; and so on as spiritual concerns were identified and outcomes established. 'Responsibility' identifies who it is that bears accountability for progress. It is the individual Chaplain who determines how far he or she will go in growth and development. I can only speak for myself when I say that there is no economic remuneration enough to cause me to read, to study, to write, to teach, to 'become' my best in hospice chaplaincy. The demands of the profession require no less than my best effort regardless of economic benefit. Not everyone shares that opinion and that is fine. Patients and families will be the direct beneficiary of any Chaplain's maturing in the profession. It seems worth it for that reason alone. Section 3 is the crux of the issue as it focuses on application of theory and practice. A Chaplain who is growing and developing chaplaincy skills is a huge benefit to any patient and family in hospice care.

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