Thursday, September 11, 2014

5 Traits of Effective Hospice Chaplains

5 Traits of Effective Hospice Chaplains I have observed what I believe to be successful hospice Chaplains. Here is what made them tick. Each of these has been practiced on a consistent, day to day manner. 1. They are spiritually focused. Most hospice chaplains come from the pastorate. The habits and spiritual practices normally follow the minister into chaplaincy. The effective chaplain practices his or her spiritual disciplines consistently. They keep the lines of communication open between themselves and God. They pray, read Sacred Texts, even sing! They forgive, don’t stay bitter, and don’t carry grudges as these are clogs in the spiritual pipeline much like the gunk that stops up drains in our plumbing. 2. They maintain a sense of humor. Dealing with spiritual challenges in the lives of patients and families day after day can drain the best of us. The effective chaplain maintains a sense of humor. He or she never uses humor at the expense of patients or family caregivers, but the chaplain knows how to laugh and enjoy a good time. 3. They are intentional students of chaplaincy. They recognize there is not just one way to provide spiritual care. They read chaplaincy journals. They learn the medical jargon and actually use it in IDT meetings. They study new techniques to provide spiritual care to patients by disease process (i.e. they discover ways to connect with dementia patients, they provide anxiety reducing interventions with COPD patients, they learn how to provide supportive presence with cancer patients, just to name a few). 4. They erect proper boundaries and maintain them. When they are working, they work with a great work ethic. But, when it is time for the shift to end, it ends. They protect their weekends. They have learned how to say, “No.” 5. They make marriage or close relationships a priority. More than likely the parish pastor who transitioned to hospice chaplaincy has forced his marriage and family to sacrifice time so that the parish ministry could consume most all family and relational time. Hospice chaplaincy does not require that and, in fact, urges the chaplain to invest in family time. The ministry is demanding. Hospice chaplaincy is demanding. There are days when the soul is spent. The beauty of hospice chaplaincy is found in the fact that the chaplain is a respected member of the IDT and is encouraged to find rest through recreation, family, and other personal enjoyments. There is no slavish board demanding a pint of blood from the pastor and each family member. A supportive team, Team Leader, manager, and other staff are all characteristic of the hospice experience. I will revisit this topic or a twist on the topic, but it needs to be stated that hospice chaplains no longer live in a glass house and can enjoy the benefits of being a normal person. Bless you, Chaplains, for who you are and what you do.

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