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Spiritual Care Chaplains Offer Diverse Patient Care Intervention

March 1, 2007

Ken Mottram, D-Min, BCC, is manager of the eight person 24/7 on call chaplain team at Bozeman Deaconess. “Chaplains are here to help patients and families utilize their own spiritual resources to meet the challenge of their illness,” he said. Spiritual care interventions include patient family visitation, emergency/crisis support, end-of-life issues and surgical/cardiac support.

The chaplain’s first order of business is spiritual presence. After an assessment of the patient’s spiritual philosophy, Bozeman Deaconess chaplains contact the patient’s own clergy or spiritual leader if requested by the individual or family. They also offer religious items, if the person wishes, from a wide assortment available in the Chapel. In addition to offering prayer—in the patient’s religious language—hospital chaplains provide patient care as advocates, educators and facilitators. They offer emotional support, links to hospital and community resources and grief counseling for families and hospital staff.

Sandy Osborne, PhD, a staff hospital chaplain at Bozeman Deaconess, says hospital chaplains provide a ministry of presence. Presence can take the form of a hug or a shoulder to cry on, and is both spiritual and emotional. Chaplains shepherd families through the Emergency department, ICU, Cancer Center, and, when things go wrong in labor and delivery, in the Maternal Newborn department. “We assist by clarifying information and are a second set of eyes and ears when families are hearing difficult news,” she explains. “Often, in a trauma, we’re there for the victim as well as family members who rush in. Sometimes people just need to have information repeated before they can process it.”

Chaplains keep watch on family members, ensuring they don’t compromise their own health during a loved one’s medical crisis. They also support staff affected by traumatic outcomes that occur in front of them both during the event and with follow-up care. For example, chaplains may stop by ICU to check in and offer support to staff who were present during a difficult event.

Mottram, who is a board certified chaplain, says his department helps families and caregivers solve ethical dilemmas. He says values can and often do clash when families face multiple options of treatment. Hospital chaplains guide patients and families when faced with withholding/withdrawing life-support, advance directives and organ donation decisions.

Kenneth Mottram’s book, Caring for Those in Crisis: Facing Ethical Dilemmas with Patients and Families, will be available in bookstores nationwide in April. Many families turn to their pastor for counsel when they face difficult medical-ethical decisions. While hospital chaplains receive clinical pastoral education, community pastors often have little training in this aspect of ministry. Mottram’s book offers advice to ministers and healthcare providers alike on how to help families face mortality and make difficult ethical decisions during medical crises.

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