What Does a Chaplain Do?

Simply stated, chaplains offer spiritual care in the clinical setting. "Spiritual care" has to do with issues of meaning, hope, and transcendence that are often more pronounced during illness, injury, birth and death.

Spiritual care helps people address questions such as:

  • Why is this happening?
  • What does this mean?
  • How do I make sense of this?
  • Where will this take me?
  • What gives me the ability to cope?
  • What gives me comfort? What next?

For some, spiritual care also includes religious support. For others, it means providing a non-anxious, caring presence in the midst of an anxious time or experience.

Chaplains are involved in patient care in many ways. This can include:

  • Offering reflective listening and non-judgmental emotional/spiritual comfort
  • Attending patient care meetings, being involved in ethics consults, working with palliative care
  • Responding to emergencies
  • Providing bereavement support at end of life care
  • Helping with crisis support and treatment decisions
  • Communicating information and providing education
  • Being there to hear and celebrate good news

Chaplains also are the "go to" people for providing religious support and materials in the hospital. The types of religious support offered by our chaplains include:

  • Praying Providing sacred writings (e.g., Bibles, Qur'ans) and devotional material
  • Providing kosher refrigerators and Sabbath candles (electric)
  • Providing holy water from the Ganges River Providing blessed rosary beads
  • Helping to clarify patients' dietary and/or procedure needs and restrictions
  • Helping to make connection with a patient's personal clergy and/or community of faith, or providing specific religious clergy and/or ritual support during hospitalization (e.g., sacrament of the sick, communion, baptism).