What is it about?

Which patients chaplains should see? We compare popular methods of answering this question, including rounding, referrals, and protocol-based systems. Mercy is moving towards identifying clinical indicators to direct spiritual care.

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Why is it important?

Pastoral service department resources are very limited, so selection of patients to see is critical to good use of those resources. Seeing more patients limits depth that can be achieved during visits, but relying on referrals from clinicians for specific needs seems to ask those clinicians to make assessments for which they are not adequately trained. Being able to identify those patients most in need of spiritual care helps maximize the impact of healthcare dollars directed towards spiritual care.


I hope this article helps chaplains and chaplain-managers (re)claim some ownership and sense of initiative in identifying which patients to see and to make their ministries more impactful. Getting away from unit-based, geographical rounding on the one hand and responding to referrals and pages on another, if we can start thinking in terms of the clinical indicators of who most likely will benefit from spiritual care, perhaps we as individuals and as a field can better define who we see, why we see them, and what impact we can make. These are questions that I think interest chaplains, managers, and administrators alike.

Chris Morrison
Mercy Health System

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Priority List: An Evidence-Based Approach to Selecting Patients for Chaplain Visits, Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling Advancing theory and professional practice through scholarly and reflective publications, December 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1542305019890357.
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