By Joe Green, Assistant Director of Support Services/Lead Chaplain
Hello there! I’m Joe Green, Assistant Director of Support Services and Lead Chaplain at Unity Hospice and Palliative Care. I’m here to talk about a vital member of your Hospice Care Team: the hospice chaplain. You may hear common responses like, “We are not religious,” or “We have our own spiritual support” when offering chaplain services to patients and families. As a result, the qualifications and role of a chaplain are often misunderstood, and that means that patients and families are missing some valuable services offered by hospices.
Did you know that CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) recognizes hospice chaplains as a key player in holistic care? We are one of the three core services CMS requires, alongside nurses and social workers. We submit a spiritual assessment for each patient under hospice care that meets CMS requirements.
In the hospice journey, patients face challenges they’ve never encountered before. Hospice chaplains are trained professionals who help patients tap into their spiritual strength, whether it’s religious or not. From family time to enjoying their favorite entertainment, we tailor our services to meet every patient’s unique needs.
Now, I get it; you might be wondering about our qualifications. We’re not here to replace anyone’s faith-based resources; we’re an addition to the professional Hospice Care Team. Most people don’t know that we go through a rigorous training program called CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. It involves 1600 hours of academic work and clinical experience – the gold standard in healthcare.
So, what do we actually do? We’re not just here to hold hands. We can help with spiritual discussions about funeral plans and advance directives. We’re experts at addressing traditions, cultural and religious beliefs, feelings, preferences, and financial considerations. From assessing strengths and concerns to facilitating religious rituals and practices, we’ve got it covered.
“…Thank you so much for your support and your prayers by text when my dad passed…You were a cornerstone in our dad’s life here in our home, for sure. It’s been very special to have you in our lives throughout the time and this significant loss…” Caregiver
And here’s the thing – we’re not pushing our beliefs onto anyone. We respect each patient’s belief system and provide support accordingly. Guilt, anger, fear – we address it all with compassion. We’re advocates for your patient’s wishes and desires and are good at finding hope and strength in unexpected places.
So, next time you recommend a hospice nurse and social worker, suggest a chat with the chaplain, too. Your patients and their families might not realize it, but we’re here for them every step of the way. Never underestimate the power of a Unity chaplain during this challenging time. We’re here for your patients and their families, ready to make a difference in their holistic care journey.
Learn More about Unity Hospice and Palliative Care.