Advancing Spiritual Care Through Research

Healthcare Chaplaincy as a Companion Profession: Historical Developments

Chaplains, like professionals in a range of industries, have long sought to maintain and build occupational power by articulating their professional mandate and advocating for their work. I describe how leaders of the Association of Professional Chaplains and its predecessor organizations used multiple strategies to articulate and re-articulate their professional mandate between 1940 and the present to become a companion profession, one that comes alongside another without seeking to challenge its jurisdiction. I find chaplains seeking to develop an economic base, aligning interests across distinct segments of the profession and creating new professional associations, lobbying for legislative support, and offering their services in institutional voids. They further adopted the language of healthcare around questions of identity, charting, and accreditation and, chaplains used not just the frameworks but the methods of healthcare—evidence based research—to try to demonstrate their value. This history can help chaplains and chaplaincy leaders today to form a more comprehensive sense of their history and think more strategically regarding how to make the case for their profession going forward.