Importantly, specifically categorizing the role of the chaplain is difficult. If the role of the hospital chaplain was compressed into one thought, one might say chaplains use specific interventions to build a trusting relationship with the patient and family. These interventions allow patients and families to slowly take in and come to grips with life-altering situations that affect both the patient and the family. Chaplains, while representing the divine, humanize the experience and act as a connection to the current patient situation and the greater hopefulness of the patient and family, no matter what happens.
Chaplains use knowledge of the system within the hospital, are trained in listening skills bent towards deeper meanings, understand liturgical practices, and most importantly, have time to be with the patient and family. By using all of this, the chaplain assists the patient in making sense of the current circumstance and aides in finding meaning through his or her surroundings.
And, so the chaplain journeys … with the hospital staff, with the patient, with the family members. Whether the path travels through the highest of peaks or through the shadow of death, chaplains are there, being, representing, listening, reflecting, offering, and initiating a sense of hope, no matter who the person is or what their story is. And whether the path travels to life, to death, or to a new normal, the chaplain is there with hope. The chaplain is a conduit of the divine.
David McDaniel is a staff chaplain at Children’s Mercy, Kansas City, Missouri.
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