October is Pastor and Clergy Appreciation Month. We’re extremely grateful for the chaplains that serve our hospice and palliative care communities. For hospice chaplains, providing comfort to the spirit is just as essential as a doctor offering physical comfort to a patient — hospice chaplains are an integral part of the hospice and palliative care teams. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reveals about 72% of hospice patients opted for spiritual support, including grief support from hospice chaplains. 

The Role of Clergy in Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice chaplains don’t necessarily take the place of pastors, rabbis, or other faith leaders; they take on a role that is more focused on achieving the best spiritual and emotional comfort for each patient. Hospice chaplains respect the diverse range of beliefs and cultural traditions within the hospice community. Oftentimes, the chaplain helps patients discover daily rituals that bring them peace. Growing research shows a correlation between spiritual support and overall well-being.

Hospice chaplains help the patient’s family members cope with their emotions leading up to and following the death of a loved one. There are many emotions that come with a loved one being placed in hospice care, including guilt, sadness, stress, and fear. The chaplain supports the family in working through these emotions, leaning on their spirituality. Once the loved one passes, the chaplain helps the family mourn and assists with funeral planning.  

In addition to the vital support chaplains provide patients and families; they also help other members of the hospice care team. Chaplains understand the spiritual needs of their fellow teammates and recognize and understand the challenging situations they face every day. 

Understanding each patient’s unique spiritual and emotional needs, hospice chaplains can also assist in bringing informed improvements and changes to other care team members about medications, practices, and other forms of care that might not align with the patient’s wishes. 

‘Thank You, Hospice Chaplains’

Hospice chaplains play an essential role in hospice and palliative care, which is why it’s important to recognize their efforts and show appreciation for the invaluable work they do for patients and their families.