Tuesday, January 6, 2015

3 Elements of a crucial conversation in a Chaplain on-call visit.

The Chaplain and On-call Visits There is probably no greater challenge for a Chaplain than to make an On-call visit. As I review my on-calls, most all of the visits were to patients/families from another team and I did not know one of them. This made the visits crucial conversations. The key elements of a crucial conversation are: high stakes; lots of emotion; and, differences of opinion. Let’s look at these individually so we Chaplains can gain further insight to these vital on-call encounters. The stakes are high: When you receive your contact through your call center, it is usually for a spiritual care crisis of some sort. The crisis can be a death where there is a complicated grief with a family member(s) not coping at all with the death of their loved one and chaos is in the home or facility; or, a patient who is obsessed with a fear of some sort; or, patients and families in conflict and the Crisis Care nurse believes the Chaplain can assist in sorting through the heightened emotions; or, when there is an existential crisis going on in with the patient or family. These are just a few of the issues a Chaplain can face. Indeed, the stakes are high. The Chaplain does not know the patient or the family and now finds him/herself in the midst of this crisis. Emotions are high. At the time of a patient death, some family members may not experience the news of death in a healthy manner, but may express their sorrow in destructive ways. Since this is an on-call visit, it is after hours. A Chaplain must have full grasp of his or her own emotions so as not to be part of the emotional chaos that is in that house or facility room. Often there are differences of opinion among family members at the death of a loved one regarding funeral home selection (normally already completed, but sometimes a family opts to wait until this is needed … not a good choice), or religious rituals, or something totally unexpected. The Chaplain must have her wits about her for this challenging encounter. In summation, an on-call visit is not for a novice in pastoral care. These type visits require pastoral care skill, excellent listening skills, common sense, conflict resolution skills, and the ability to negotiate a minefield of emotional explosives. Blessings, Chaplain friends, as you carry out your on-call visits with great skill.

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