Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Opportunity to contribute matching funds for national research project

As we think about how to educate chaplains to work in today’s healthcare organizations, we realize that we are missing one essential piece of information – knowledge of how healthcare decision makers think about and value the work of chaplains. Training a new generation of chaplains will be for naught if we do not know what healthcare administrators believe chaplains contribute to the mission of their organizations.


How You Can Help

A foundation supporter has offered the project $65,000 of the $145,000 necessary to conduct this study, on the condition that the remaining funds are raised by the end of 2018. To date, additional supporters have offered an additional $30,000. This means that in order for this project to proceed, $50,000 must be contributed. If you or your organization would like to contribute to this landmark study, contact Transforming Chaplaincy Communications Director Michael Skaggs at


A Study to Discern Solutions

To that end, several investigators – Transforming Chaplaincy’s George Fitchett and Wendy Cadge, along with Trace Haythorn of ACPE and Andy Garman of Rush University and the National Center for Healthcare Leadership – have proposed a research project in two stages. First, they will conduct short case studies of four healthcare institutions: two where chaplaincy or spiritual care services have recently expanded and two where they have been reduced. Interviews with chaplaincy executives and managers will provide an initial look at the factors influencing these changes. The team will then conduct interviews with twenty-five key decision-makers in healthcare to learn how they understand chaplaincy and spiritual care, whether they value it, and what sorts of opportunities they can imagine for chaplains in response to the biggest challenges in healthcare in the next ten years. Such decision-makers, selected from a national pool, will include Chief Operating Officers, Vice-Presidents for Patient Care Services, Chief Nursing Administrators, Chief Patient Experience Officers and others to whom chaplaincy managers report.


A Way Forward

Based on what they learn, the team will draft a white paper that describes the value of and strategic opportunities for chaplains from the perspective of these decision-makers. In addition to those interviewed, the research time will circulate the white paper to a broad range of decision-makers in healthcare chaplaincy. Based on their feedback they will then draft two journal articles, one focused on the case studies and a second that outlines how healthcare decision makers think about chaplaincy and spiritual care and what their perspectives suggest for next, strategic steps for the field. The proposed project will enable the team to correct the widespread ignorance about chaplaincy among healthcare decision-makers that Russell Dicks pointed out nearly 80 years ago. Alongside these papers and articles, the project team will propose actionable steps for the profession moving forward.

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