First of all, let me state unequivocally, getting a hospice Chaplain position is not easy. Therefore, when you are offered a position and begin your career, I urge you to cherish it.
Here are 4 ABSOLUTES to excelling in your career.
- Keep a positive ATTITUDE. There will be highs and lows in hospice chaplaincy. You will love the face to face work with patients and families. Most Chaplains enjoy serving people. However, there will be that “2x4 to the head” moment when nothing you do will satisfy a patient or family. Also, there will be changes in the way you document, changes in what is expected in documentation, additional information required, changes, changes, changes. Change is the new normal. Your IDT colleagues may grouse and complain among one another and even to you as they ask your opinion. Do not fall into that trap of negativity. Remain positive. Trust your leadership to navigate the very difficult maze of Medicare demands. Create a brand for yourself as being Mr. or Ms. Positive. That will take you a long way in chaplaincy.
- Embrace the highest in ethical standards. Your time is your own to create your work day. At Cornerstone Hospice our day begins at 8AM and concludes at 4:30PM. Most field staff begin their day in their home making phone calls setting appointments. It is expected that we all put in a full day’s work. With that said, I urge our Chaplains to make 2 visits in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. If at all possible they are to complete their charting in their computers after each visit, so they can finish their day at 4:30PM and then be with their families. We have a mandate to visit our caseload 1-2 times in every 30 day cycle. The verbiage in the computer may state, “per month”, but it is 30 days. Beyond staying in compliance, it is expected that Chaplains will maintain confidences within the IDT. Once you break a confidence, everyone will know. Your reputation is blown and you have gained a very negative brand. So, work hard, stay in compliance, advocate for your patients, and keep your word and all confidences.
- Make yourself available for projects. Chaplains are busy with patients and families. That is a given. However, from time to time there will be special projects that need a Chaplain. Be the first to volunteer. Your willingness will be appreciated, particularly when you make vital contributions to the work team.
- Increase your skills and knowledge base. As I wrote that sentence, I heard voices of complaint and dissatisfaction, because there is usually no added compensation for degrees and certifications. However, the nature of our work demands highly skilled pastoral care clinicians. Becoming Board Certified from a nationally recognized organization will help you to excel in your work. Taking Continuing Education courses will assist your skill development. Here is my attitude … The better prepared I am to do my work, the better care I will provide a patient at their most vulnerable moments in the course of their hospice journey. In addition, my skill level will greatly benefit family members. Please do not succumb to the temptation to be satisfied with where you are. Growth is an imperative in our field of service.
I am sure I could write much more on this vital topic, but I’ll leave it at what I wrote. When you have your annual performance evaluation, your personal brand or reputation will precede you. Your excellent work will be noted. You just may receive a merit increase in pay as a result.