This morning I was reading Chapter 7 in Helping the Helpers (Foskett, John and Lyall, David; New Library of Pastoral Care, page 107) and came across a very fascinating word, omnicompetence. Here is the exact quote: “…each ministry demands its own training and expertise, and it is unrealistic to expect omnicompetence…”
I looked this word up and found varying definitions. In defining omnicompetence I discovered several clear descriptions: able to handle any situation; competent in every area; the ability to do everything. And, I had to wonder if that is not what is expected of the parish pastor or the hospital chaplain or even the hospice Chaplain. It is unreasonable to expect of any human, regardless of religious calling, to have the ability to handle every crisis situation with ease or to implement administrative skills perfectly, or to do everything on the job description without faltering even a tiny bit. What is expected by the use of this word is the fundamental necessity of education and mentored training.
At Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, Inc., we have a high census of patients with dementia; therefore, we train our Chaplains and Volunteers in “Communicating Spirituality to Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.” We have many other patients suffering from diseases such as: HIV:AIDS, COPD, Cardiac Disease, Cancers of all sorts, as well as other life-limiting disease processes. Therefore, we educate our Chaplains using the module, “Providing Spiritual Care According to Disease Process.” I recognize that our Chaplains like to read after hours to gain more information about chaplaincy, so I provide http://www.embracedbytheheartofhospice.blogspot.com. We recognize that there are chaplains in the community and highly motivated lay persons that have a desire to deepen their ministry skills. We offer Clinical Pastoral Education to meet those needs.
Further, there is the “other half” of hospice chaplaincy—documentation in the electronic record. For that, the Chaplain has resources such as, “Algorithms for Spiritual Care”, the “Users’ Guide”, and “Documentation Template” to assist in the process. The goal is to educate the Chaplain so that in the midst of meeting his caseload of patients with their unique personalities and responses to their life limiting illnesses, the Chaplain not only will be flexible in his approach to meeting the patients, but also, intelligently flexible as he/she provides the appropriate spiritual care for these patients.
Caring is just not enough. Quoting from Helping the Helpers (pages 104-105):
“Heije Faber in his classic study Pastoral Care in the Modern Hospital compares the role of the minister (Chaplain) in hospitals with that of a clown in a circus. The clown has his own unique and essential role in the circus introducing a dimension of humanity amidst the amazing feats of the lion-tamers and the trapeze artists. Similarly a minister (Chaplain) in a hospital can be seen as another human being with whom patients can identify in the midst of all the high technology. ‘If the minister (Chaplain) is to be compared with the clown, he is not to overlook how Grock, one of the greatest of the clowns, would study his act almost daily, frequently giving it fresh slants, and taking care to notice the reactions of the audience. He realized that the clown had to be professional. The pastoral ministry is also a trade one has to learn and make one’s own by study and training.’” And, that is why I put so much emphasis on educating our Chaplain Team. At this time of year, the National Football League training camps are in full swing. Since I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, I follow the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I listened to a sports report about the Bucs quarterback. He was eating his lunch alone and was studying his iPad so he could know the offensive plays so well, he didn’t have to think about what to do. His decisions would be second nature. To become a hospice Chaplain with great pastoral care skills it takes more than a heart. Heart is an assumed quality of a hospice Chaplain. Gaining skills in providing excellent and comforting spiritual care takes time, study, and practice. It just doesn’t happen on its own. I don’t expect any Chaplain to be omnicompetent, but I do expect the Chaplain to trend upward in his/her pastoral care skills.
Interesting word: omnicompetence…