Advanced Practice Chaplain Karen Pugliese explains in this brief video how a chaplain is a healer who cares for the human spirit for those in spiritual pain regardless of one's religion or beliefs.
Anyone diagnosed with a serious illness or living with a chronic illness and physical pain may be facing both stress and distress that can be not only physical but emotional and spiritual.
Professional, board-certified chaplains are the spiritual care specialists on the health care team as doctors and nurses focus on caring for the body.
Professional chaplains do not provide definitive answers to questions and issues of spiritual distress. Instead, they help people in spiritual distress to identify and draw upon their sources of spiritual strength – regardless of religion or beliefs. As one very experienced professional chaplain puts it:
“Our most fundamental human condition is that we come face to face with our own mortality. As chaplains, we walk into some dark places and help bring in light. We’re not afraid of their darkness. We’re not afraid of their fear. We don’t care who a person is or who you’ve been. We want to be with you where you are.
“We try to find common ground and a common language, speaking about hope, love, faith, relationships, family, regrets. Our goal is not to get you from one point to the other. Our goal is to help you identify where you want to go.”
Professional chaplains will accept without judgment the person in pain’s own beliefs, faith and practice as well as their doubts and misgivings.
A health care chaplain becomes board certified by one of the professional associations when he or she meets the requirements: has completed graduate level study and 1600 hours of supervised clinical training, demonstrates competencies through a rigorous peer review process, and commits to a professional code of ethics prohibits proselytizing.
Some professional chaplains are also ordained clergy or recognized religious/spiritual leaders depending on their tradition; some are not.
While local clergy and religious leaders who volunteer to see patients in hospitals usually serve only patients of their own religious faith, professional health care chaplains seek to care for everyone – whoever you are and whatever you believe.