October 28, 2015

What Do Hospice Chaplains Do?

At Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG), professional chaplains are an integral part of the support system for many patients and families.

Yet some people are not sure what exactly chaplains do, or if they should choose to see a chaplain as part of their care. In this month’s blog, one of HPCG’s chaplains, Judy Haughee-Bartlett, explains the hospice chaplain’s role.

Chaplains listen and support.

“Some patients and families have a belief system which works well for them in providing a grounding for defining hope and meaning, no matter what life brings. For those persons, chaplains listen and support to reinforce the meaning their traditions provide.

But for some, serious illness may shatter a belief system, especially for people who have felt that bad things do not happen to good people. For them, chaplains listen and offer support as they reflect on ways their faith may need to change to incorporate this new experience.”

Chaplains provide spiritual counseling.

“Along with social workers, we may support patients in tying up the loose ends, as in the case of helping them seek reconciliation in relationships where that is needed. Often, we provide short-term anticipatory grief counseling for families, which is then continued through bereavement services.”

Chaplains perform religious rituals.

“Where there is a strong and resilient belief system, we may reinforce it through readings from sacred texts, prayer and rituals, like communion or anointing. Chaplains also plan and officiate at funerals or memorial services if that is a family’s wish.”

Chaplains do not try to convert people.

“It is a part of the chaplain’s code of ethics to respect diversity of beliefs.  Chaplains do not have an agenda to change the deeply held beliefs of others.  Our patients may be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or atheist; we’re not there to change their minds but to provide care which respects them and their beliefs.”