Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Rush Hosts First Chaplaincy Research Summer Institute

From July 24 to 28, 2017, 28 chaplains attended the first ever Chaplain Research Summer Institute hosted by the Department of Religion, Health and Human Values at Rush University. The Institute, a new initiative of Transforming Chaplaincy, was designed to provide chaplains with knowledge and skills to deepen their understanding of research, enhance their ability to teach research literacy to chaplains in training, undertake important basic research and quality improvement projects, and collaborate more effectively with other researchers.

The participants came from clinical settings across the United States and represented the major US professional chaplaincy organizations, which provided scholarship support for their members. Two participants came from Australia. The faculty included chaplain researchers Daniel Grossoehme from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, and Ewan Kelly, Scottish chaplain researcher and Research Coordinator of the European Research Institute for Chaplains in Healthcare (ERICH). They were joined by George Fitchett and Patricia Murphy from the Department. Annelieke Damen from the Netherlands, a visiting scholar in the Department, also assisted with the Institute.

The participants heard lectures on research design and methods relevant for research about spiritual care. They dialogued with the authors of four important chaplaincy research projects including Deb Marin (Mt Sinai Medical Center, New York City) and Kate Piderman (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN) who joined the Institute by video conference. Participants also met in small groups to receive consultation about a developing research question or project. Patricia provided individual consultation for interested participants, and four participants shared works in progress with the whole group.

During the Institute, Fitchett overviewed existing chaplaincy research and led a discussion of future developments in chaplaincy research. Ample time was provided during the day and in the evenings to allow the participants to network with one another and with the faculty.

The response of the participants was very positive. One participant wrote, “This was a stimulating event personally and professionally for me. I feel excited and newly empowered to return to my context and collaborate on projects with others.”  Another participant found the teaching accessible and “easy to understand for such a difficult subject.” Perhaps the most gratifying comments came from those whose confidence in their ability to do research increased as a result of their time during the Institute. As one participant wrote, “The greatest gift to me has been the insight that I can feel confident in engaging and sharing my interests, skills, and passions with professional colleagues.”

Based on feedback, plans are underway for the second Institute in Summer 2018. Contact project coordinator Kathryn Lyndes for details.

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