Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

CPE Student Responses to Case Studies

Rev. Angelika Zollfrank, BCC, who is an ACPE Certified Educator at Yale New Haven Hospital and recipient of a Transforming Chaplaincy CPE curriculum development grant, passed along reflections from two of her CPE students as they completed research literacy modules and responded to case studies. The students’ responses are good summaries of the cases, but they also show Transforming Chaplaincy at work in the field of CPE.


Rabbi Leah Tenenbaum wrote on the decision to receive (or not) an LVAD in cardiac patients:

As increasing numbers of end-stage heart failure patients contemplate the difficult decision whether or not to receive a Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) they face a number of complex factors such as quality of life, longevity, cost, caretaker burden, risk of infection, device failure and a myriad of other issues.  In a recent capstone case study project, at the conclusion of a 9 month CPE Chaplain Residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Rabbi Leah Cohen Tenenbaum developed an approach to analyzing the various decision points as a patient contemplates the pros and cons of the LVAD, pre- surgery, post-surgery, no surgery and throughout the remaining course of the patient’s life.  At each inflection point using the Taxonomy (Kevin Massey, Rabbi Tenenbaum assessed the key spiritual and psychosocial issues that the patient and family faces and identifies appropriate spiritual interventions based on her work with patients in the CTICU, and Cardio Step down unit.  Using Michele Shield’s Spiritual AIM model, she identified the role of spiritual supporter, patient advocate, communication facilitator and companion. By stepping into these roles as families and patients are making decisions about LVAD treatment option the chaplain can offer spiritual and emotional support that is key to the success of the experience for patients and their families.


Heidi Thorsen wrote on ritual in hospital chaplaincy:

As part of the research literacy component, Chaplain Residents at Yale New Haven Hospital write a final case studythat draws on research and conceptual understandings in the field. I wrote my case study reflecting on my work in the Pediatric ICU, specifically a case in which I helped a young mother and father of four (three girls, age 1-3, and their infant son) come to terms with the brain death of their youngest child. My case study was titled, “Rethinking Ritual in Hospital Chaplaincy: The Case of Ezra Immanuel.”(Names changed) In my case study I reflected on the role of chaplains in facilitating ritual in the hospital context—not only the explicit rituals that chaplains may initiate at the death of an infant (baptism; rituals of naming and blessing), but also the essential role that chaplains play as facilitators of secular rituals, such as family meetings. Using Victor Turner’s definition of ritual as an action that creates “communitas” and the AIM model of spiritual assessment (Shields, Kestenbaum, Dunn), I explored how a broader definition of ritual can help advocate for the essential work that chaplains do in the hospital setting. The chaplain’s ability to recognize the sacred in secular contexts is an incredible resource—transforming the family meeting into a much needed opportunity for expressions of collective grief, and uniting family and staff across hierarchical structures through the creation of healing communitas.


Transforming Chaplaincy is grateful to Rev. Zollfrank, Rabbi Tenenbaum, and Thorsen for their work!

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