Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Spotlight: Eva Buelens

One of the best ways for Transforming Chaplaincy to help foster research literacy is to help chaplains become acquainted with one another and leaders in their fields. With that in mind, the Spotlight feature interviews one or more chaplains, educators, administrators / healthcare professionals, or researchers. These leaders are putting Transforming Chaplaincy to work in the world, and we hope their experience offers valuable insights for the entire Transforming Chaplaincy community. In this issue, we’re spotlighting Eva Buelens of UZ Leuven and KU Leuven.


Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, what education or training do you have, and how did you end up in chaplaincy research?

Eva Buelens

I studied Theology and Religious Studies in Leuven, Belgium. I did an advanced master’s in chaplaincy studies as I was fascinated by the beauty of chaplaincy after my first internship. I like to learn by practice as well as through reading and doing research. I was lucky to get the chance to combine both of these interests.


How does your institution benefit from your research, and what do you think is the primary benefit research has conferred on chaplaincy?

By doing research, we oblige ourselves to look critically at our own practices. We can get formal feedback from patients and others who receive chaplaincy services and continue to enhance the professionalization of chaplaincy as a field. By doing research, we are making clear the relevance of chaplaincy to ourselves, other professions and healthcare management.


What are, in your opinion, the primary challenges to chaplaincy research?

At the moment, process and outcome research across all aspects of chaplaincy (life-review, rituals, grief-counseling, the search for meaning, religious questions, and so on) and with all manner of patients (e.g., persons with dementia, young adults, the elderly) is highly needed. Furthermore, rapid secularization and the small community of chaplains equipped for research combine to make research challenging.


How can researchers better integrate their work into chaplaincy practice in healthcare settings?

Integration and implementation starts with consulting chaplains to know which research questions need to be answered and how to design research that applies to real-life settings. By turning research results into screening tools, making assessments, or reporting on outcomes of interventions, the integration of research into chaplaincy will get easier. On a practical note, translation of research into different languages should be a priority.


Take us 10 years into the future. What’s different about chaplaincy then as a result of research literacy becoming a standard competency?

We will work together more frequently across denominational lines and professional boundaries, all evincing a dedication to meaning, spirituality and religion from a different perspective.


We’re grateful to Eva for contributing to our spotlight series.

Leave a Comment