Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Spotlight: Kristin Godlin

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 Kristin Godlin of Carle Foundation Hospital / OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center.


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

Kristin Godlin, BCC

I grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where I work now. The early part of my career was spent working as a minister in Michigan, Indiana, and Connecticut churches. I began working as a hospital chaplain seven years ago when I returned to Illinois. I soon developed a particular interest in working with people who had experienced trauma.


Why did you decide to pursue research literacy, and what do you think is the primary benefit that research literacy confers on chaplaincy?

My interest in research is driven by my passion for learning about trauma and its effect on the human spirit. When we experience trauma, many of our core beliefs and assumptions about the world can be shattered. For example, we may wonder if the world makes sense, if we can trust people to be good, and if we can trust God to intervene when bad things happen. Rebuilding belief systems in the wake of trauma takes a lot time, effort, and support. While chaplains can help, even chaplains can use a road map. It is helpful to know that positive spiritual and psychological changes (e.g. a deepened faith, a new sense of strength, a greater appreciation for life) can result from trauma if it is navigated well.


What are, in your opinion, the primary challenges to integrating research literacy into chaplaincy practice?

The primary challenge to integrating research literacy is that there is not enough research in some areas. We are still learning to articulate why it is important to attend to the spirituality of patients, how chaplains can intervene, and the value of different interventions. We are only beginning to develop the research base to enable us to do this. We especially need to study the efficacy of different chaplaincy interventions. For example, we might ask, “Does it make a difference whether trauma survivors receive spiritual support?” We might say that it does, but it would be helpful to have the evidence to support us.


How do you integrate research literacy into your own educational practices? 

Most often I am guided by psychological theory (e.g., trauma theory, family systems theory, and Pargament’s theory of religious coping) in my assessment of people and events. But sometimes there are specific pieces of research that guide our practice in other ways. For example, in response to newly-published research, our department changed the screening questions that nurses ask to generate chaplaincy referrals. The result is that we have more and higher quality referrals.


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

Chaplains will become more confident as research increasingly testifies to their value and guides their work (e.g., by suggesting better screening questions, staffing patterns, and even curricula for support groups). In addition, the respect for chaplaincy will grow among other professionals as they gain a greater understanding of what chaplains do.

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

Leave a Comment