Friday, March 6, 2015

Furthering the Cause of Chaplaincy in America

I received the following email message from Sue Wintz and wholeheartedly support the effort she is leading. It is important that all Chaplains from all areas of service unite and sign this petition. Why Should I Sign: Moving Chaplaincy Forward If you have not already seen it, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network has created a petition to be circulated to all the members of Congress this spring. The objective of the petition is to "raise positive awareness that professional health care chaplains cost-effectively improve patient and family experience and satisfaction with their health care" and "promote patient and family choice of care for all Americans of all beliefs, cultures, and religions." You can read the entire sign-on statement at and add your name to the petition; all that is asked for is your name and state. The question, of course, is why should you do this? I need to add a disclaimer here. I work with HealthCare Chaplaincy Network and support this petition wholeheartedly. I know and contribute to the commitment that HCCN has to professional chaplaincy and care for the human spirit. I am also someone who has extensive national experience and expertise within the profession as one who served in national leadership. I have worked (and continue to work) with national organizations to network and advocate for professional chaplaincy as well as provide education and consultation to various projects as a subject expert. While both of these roles are important and intersect with each other, it is from the latter that I am writing. We know as chaplains and other professionals that honoring and integrating spirituality into person-centered care is essential. It is clear to us through our professional experience and growing research findings that identifying, integrating, and accommodating persons' beliefs and values into their health care makes a difference in their experience, their treatment decisions, and their ability to cope. Chaplains' expertise makes a positive difference to patients, families, staff, and organizations. We also know that chaplain contributions have not always been recognized or supported. That can be true on the local level, when the organizations where we are employed do not provide funding for the level of chaplain coverage needed, salaries that are not in line with our professional expertise, or look to chaplaincy departments as the first place for layoffs when there is a need to reduce spending. I have heard and continue to hear conversation about that for many years. However, we all need to recognize that this is a much bigger issue, which is why this petition is so important. Everyone who is a chaplain, values the work of a chaplain, and/or supports the inclusion of spirituality as an element of personalized care needs to sign it. My experience is that in order to raise the awareness of the importance of chaplaincy and to integrate spirituality and professional chaplains into health care it is important to develop relationships and engage in conversation so that clients - patients, families, and staff - receive the best care possible. Change can be slow, but it can be accomplished. When you read the sign-on statement, you will see that the focus is advocating for a conversation at the national level. Its purpose is to do exactly what I know works from my own professional experience, and that is to build relationships. Have a conversation. Educate. At this time, there is no legislative agenda as part of the petition. Yes, there are things all of us who are chaplains would like to see: chaplains to be included in the taxonomy coding, funding of chaplaincy services by insurance providers, recognition, and funding by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Now is not the time. Conversation and education is the first step. HealthCare Chaplaincy Network has shown a deep commitment to furthering the work of professional chaplaincy and care for the human spirit with the writing of this petition and their goal to educate the members of Congress in order to begin a national dialogue. Professional health care chaplaincy and its value to Americans is not a topic on the radar screen of most members of Congress or their staff. For the most part, they are not even aware that professional health care chaplains exist and are a cost effective resource to improve the delivery of health care. That is why it is important that this petition be signed, not by a few, but by everyone who believes in the importance of professional chaplaincy and spirituality as an essential component of health care. Reading the sign-on statement and adding your signature to the petition will not take much of your time; you can do it in just a few minutes. However, by signing it you will make a huge difference in its success. The more signatures on the petition, the better chance there will be for that important conversation to be held to educate members of Congress and their staff about the importance of professional chaplaincy. I ask you to do these few simple steps: 1. Go to the website, read the information, and add your name to the petition. 2. Give the link your co-workers, chaplains, and non-chaplains alike; in fact sit down and show it to them. Tell them why it is important. Ask them to add their signature. 3. Do the same with your family and friends. 4. Share the link on the social media networks you are part of: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. and include why you think it is important. 5. Contact your professional association and ask them to promote the petition with their membership. Ask that they sign the petition themselves. Tell them you want them to formally endorse it, as it will give them positive visibility on Capitol Hill when the conversations are held. As a national leader in chaplaincy I am deeply disappointed that, at this writing, none of the professional associations has done so. One last word as a past-and-current leader within professional chaplaincy and while it sounds blunt, it needs to be said. This is not about "turf." It is not about one chaplaincy membership association over another. Despite any differences that exist, they do not matter right now. Instead, this is the time for all chaplains to speak with one voice. I hope that you will be part of this opportunity to promote professional chaplaincy and care of the human spirit. Take the time now to go read and sign on to the petition. Sue Wintz is Director, Professional and Community Education, at HealthCare Chaplaincy Network and Managing Editor of PlainViews. She has over 30 years of experience as a chaplain, consultant, educator, and administrator and has spent nearly 20 of those years working at the national level in networking and advocating for professional chaplaincy. She is board certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains and is a past president of that organization. She can be reached at

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