The role of Chaplaincy

Chaplains have cared for patients and staff in UK hospitals for more than a thousand years. Today, the Chaplain is looked to as a professional figure with expertise to provide spiritual, pastoral and religious care.

Chaplains come from many different traditions and faiths but are united by their common focus and participation in the health sector. The NHS, along with hospices and private facilities, draws on the services of Chaplains to provide holistic care which recognises the vital relationship between spirituality and wellbeing.

Being a Chaplain in the 21st century requires both skill and knowledge. While much of our work is with patients, there is also an important advisory and educational role. Excellent patient-centred care requires a nuanced understanding of diversity, difference and personal needs. Failure to provide effective spiritual care can lead to distress, malnutrition and the refusal to consent to life-saving interventions such as transfusion.

Our basic role is to be involved with others in the provision of holistic care within the hospital community. This is concerned with the whole person and includes not only someone’s physical health but also their social, emotional and spiritual health and wellbeing.

We’re pastoral practitioners who seek to build a relationship of trust through compassionate presence and thereby offer help and support to a wide range of people. Such support might (for example) focus on the emotional or spiritual adjustment to illness or on the search for meaning and purpose through difficult times. Help in crisis situations, including family/relationship issues and bereavement, are regular areas of Chaplaincy involvement.

We work collectively and collaboratively alongside other healthcare professionals to provide psycho-social-spiritual services for patients and their families. We receive regular patient referrals from staff and contribute to patients’ overall care through regular involvement and liaison with members of multi-disciplinary teams.

Our specialty is to possess a particular understanding of the relationship between faith, illness and the emotional and mental conflicts that might arise. We seek to motivate and initiate meaningful use of each individual’s beliefs and attitudes in the management of their difficulties.

Our role is supportive, serving as a counsellor and guide to the psycho-spiritual needs of the staff and patients.

Our ministry to patients is a prime responsibility but often we also come into contact with their family and respond to their needs too.

We also offer staff support and advice and are often involved in staff advocacy.