Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

O’Mahoney on Student Chaplains

Transforming Chaplaincy welcomes guest commentator Sean Doll O’Mahoney, who is CPE Manager at St. Vincent Health in Indianapolis, Indiana. We thank Sean for his insight today and encourage chaplains and researchers – even those not working directly with student chaplains – to explore the article. For this Idea in Brief, Doll O’Mahoney comments on Purvis TE, Crowe TY, Wright SM, Teague P (2017). “Patient appreciation of student chaplain visits during their hospitalization.” Journal of Religion and Health.

Purvis et al. offer compelling evidence in this article that even single visits with patients can have lasting effect. More significantly, their study highlights the efficacy of visits by chaplaincy interns.

Purvis and colleagues surveyed patients visited by nine summer CPE interns at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.   They utilized an independent research assistant who followed up after patients had been visited by the interns and asked patients about the spiritual care they received. Two results of this survey are particularly notable. First, 80% of patients said the visit “positively influenced my overall rating of care provided by the hospital”; second, the number of visits provided—one or more than one—did not change this rating.   One opportunity for growth raised by the article was that a smaller percentage – albeit still 60% – felt the visit enhanced the medical team’s understanding of patient goals and values.

Summer CPE units are challenging for interns and educators alike, with a steep learning curve, moments of excitement, and plenty of exhaustion. Sharing this study with interns might help provide a greater sense of confidence as well as peace, that their initiative to be present in the room in their role as student chaplains does make a difference. CPE managers and supervisors will benefit from considering how they can use the conclusions of this article to illustrate both the efficacy of student chaplains as well as enhance student chaplains’ sense of contributing to patient outcomes, even during their training.




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