Research shows that pastoral care can contribute to an individual’s mood, coping skills and emotional sense of well-being, as well as providing opportunities for families to address difficult issues together.

1. “Patient and Family Perceptions of Hospital Chaplains” 

Hosp Health Serv Adm. 1991 Fall; 36(3):455-67. VandeCreek L, Thomas J, Jessen A, Gibbons J, Strasser S; Ohio State University Hospital, Columbus.


While most hospitals provide chaplaincy services for patients, families and staff, these services are seldom studied and their contribution is poorly understood. A questionnaire created by the College of Chaplains of the American Protestant Health Association was mailed by an insurance company to patients recently dismissed from the hospital, requesting evaluation of three non-medical services (social services, chaplaincy, and patient representatives) and of how well the spiritual needs for support/counseling, prayer and sacraments were met. Responses revealed that, in comparison to the other two non-medical services, patients receive more visits from chaplains, evaluate these visits as more important (p less than 0.000), and report that these visits meet their expectations more highly (p less than 0.000). Regression analyses demonstrate that when the chaplain meets the patient's need for support/counseling, the respondent is more likely to select the hospital again (p = 0.04) and recommend it to others (p = 0.05). Similarly, when chaplains meet the family's need for support/counseling, the respondent is likely to choose the hospital again. Since chaplains clearly make an important contribution to patients, their families and the hospital, administrators should review the adequacy of their chaplaincy services in the light of these data.

2. Why the NHS needs chaplains

In publishing the results of a 2010 survey, the RCN (Royal College of Nurses in the United Kingdom) has acknowledged that many patients are ‘missing out on important spiritual care’ with only 5% of nurses feeling that they could always meet the spiritual needs of patients. Ninety percent of nurses surveyed believed that ‘providing spiritual care improves the overall quality of nursing care and the vast majority (83%) believe spirituality is a fundamental aspect of nursing, even for patients with no religious beliefs’. The importance of the chaplain’s role, as part of a multi-disciplinary healthcare team working alongside nurses, could hardly be better illustrated.

3. NACC Vision, March 200, Vol. 10, No.3, pp. 6-7.

Spiritual services are on the increase and are becoming even more visible in the standards of the Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). “Ten years ago the Joint Commission didn’t ask about spiritual care,” one chaplain explained. “Today it’s one of the first things they ask about” says one health care provider.

In 2003, JCAHO stated that “patients have a fundamental right to considerate care that safeguards their personal dignity and respects their cultural, psychosocial and spiritual values.”

Today, the Commission “expects you to conduct a spiritual assessment of every patient in every healthcare setting [. . .] to determine how a patient’s religion or spiritual outlook might affect the care he or she receives [. . .]. At minimum the spiritual assessment should determine the patient’s religious denomination, beliefs, and what spiritual practices are important to the patient.”

Increased attention to religion/spirituality in JCAHO guidelines, some hospitals and the medical literature, may be related to increased attention to religion and spirituality among other healthcare providers as well as to the continued presence of chaplains.

4. The Strength to Cope: Spirituality and Faith in Chronic Disease,” Journal of Religion and Health, DOI: 10.1007/s10943-011-9554-9. Nalika Unantenne, Narelle Warren, Rachel Canaway and Lenore Manderson


The lifelong management of a chronic condition requires considerable mental fortitude and commitment in social adjustment and adherence to medical advice. In examining strategies of adaptation, we draw on ethnographic research, including interviews with 69 people with type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease. We explore how they incorporate spirituality into their self-management routines, with positive impact on their health and wellbeing and highlight the role of spiritual practices in supporting people with chronic conditions mentally, physically and socially, so encouraging personal responsibility for one’s health and wellbeing.