By On September 19th, 2016

Health Care Industry: Pastoral Care vs. Chaplains Role


Written by Lydia D’Ross, Ordained Minister and Outreach Chaplain for RENEWAL at Brookhaven Hospital

There is quite a distinction between the role of chaplains and pastoral care in the health care industry. Harding et al, claims that, “Pastoral care is taking action with the deliberate intent to work with the resiliency of the human soul…brings experience one has…resources to situations in which someone is spiritually and or emotionally vulnerable.” Pastors mostly serve in a church setting, administrative duties of rites and sends the elders of the church to visit someone in their homes if they’re sick or to visit a member at the hospital.

Chaplains have the authority to provide pastoral care as professionals in industries that most pastors lack the specialized training to understand the framework, such as in a healthcare setting.

Most healthcare organizations have chaplains on site or on call from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds in order to meet the needs of the patients on a short term basis. This is in contrast to pastoral care, where in most cases, they visit a member with continuous follow up after discharge.

Chaplains and pastoral care have similar roles in providing spiritual care, but chaplains who serve in the health care industry, are specialized, and are also part of the hospital  multi-disciplinary team. Their role is patient advocacy and to bring a focus to spiritual care issues.

A chaplain’s faith does not interfere with their service to hospital patients as they must treat all patients the same regardless of the individual’s religious affiliations. This extends to providing services to healthcare staff as well. For example, in times of hospital crisis or manmade disasters a chaplain might serve both the hospital staff as well as the patients.

In respect to pastoral care, the clergy already know their members and are able to have more continuity of care with their members, and to operate from their own theological standpoint.

Healthcare industries provide on-site chaplaincy training and expect their clergy’s to follow OSHA, HIPPA and other healthcare regulations. However, pastors are not required to do so as their primary place of profession is typically in a church setting. Pastoral care has their own set of ethics and policy based on theology, and regulated by denomination doctrines.

Chaplains are quite resourceful as they collaborate with faith-based community leaders, service providers and also provide the spiritual aspect of healing within the health care organization.

Brookhaven Hospital’s Renewal program depends on our team chaplains to provide the spiritual component of the healing process of mind, body and spirit provided in our treatment program.

Our next pastoral seminar is scheduled for October 13th, and will be a panel discussion on how to deal with violence in our community. This is a free seminar for pastors, chaplains and church personnel to attend with lunch provided. Please call 918-430-8350 to RSVP.

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