Defining The Healthcare Chaplain Role: Steps To Becoming A Chaplain

The Healthcare Chaplain Role On The Medical Team

Becoming a hospital chaplain was my original goal when changing careers as a pastor. At that time, becoming a hospice chaplain had not entered my mind, but when I responded to a hospice chaplain job opportunity, defining my chaplaincy role in the medical field took on a new dimension.

A Chaplain Is Part Of The Interdisciplinary Medical Team

One of the greatest discoveries I learned when starting my chaplaincy career was that in performing the duties of both a hospital chaplain and later as a hospice chaplain, my role was appreciated by the other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team.

In fulfilling the healthcare chaplain role, I learned that as a spiritual care professional I was to interface with the interdisciplinary medical team, providing a spiritual perspective to the patient's medical care plan.

Because of the great respect for chaplains from the medical team, pastoral care interventions were seen as an important part of the total care plan of patients, especially as they approached the end of life.

This understanding of the healthcare chaplain role, especially now as I look back on my chaplaincy career path, helps me to see the fingerprints of God all over my life.

I can see God at work in my ministerial career, guiding me to a pastoral ministry role that was uniquely focused on providing pastoral care to hurting people.

Chaplain Career Motivation

One reason I expanded my ministry career options by taking on a professional healthcare chaplain role was that I could address the deepest concerns of hurting people from the perspective of faith.

In this chaplain role, I realized that I was working with the medical team to help patients and their families integrate their faith with their health concerns, the importance of spiritual care became evident both to me and to those I worked with.

What Does A Chaplain Do?

First of all, the role of the chaplain is not to convert people to a specific faith. Rather, the chaplain's ministry role is to enable patients and their families to draw strength from their own personal faith.

By the way, I believe this one aspect of chaplaincy that has been misunderstood by those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals.

Yes, I know that we have a zeal to win people to Jesus, so it is difficult for us to see our role as a spiritual care giver as simply helping people draw from their own faith resources.

Health care chaplains, both hospice chaplains and hospital chaplains, have a passion to help hurting people draw upon their own personal faith as they face difficulties, disasters, disease, and discomforts of every kind.

Chaplain Career Opportunities for Pastors

Clergy career options that fulfill God's call to a chaplaincy career exist beyond the healthcare arena.

For example, Military Chaplaincy has long been a viable ministry career, yet professional chaplain career opportunities are also becoming more prevalent in other industries as well.

Major corporations are becoming aware of the spiritual needs of their employees, hiring chaplains to address these workplace spiritual concerns. What they are discovering is that professional workplace chaplains are good for the bottom line. How?

The workplace or corporate chaplain helps address inner spiritual distress in a way that eventually increases a company's corporate morale.

The first portion of my chaplain training was in a hospital, helping people whose hospitalization was creating doubts about the reality of God. Pastoral care was provided to others whose disease prompted their need for the reassurance of God's love.

Corporate chaplaincy addressed those doubts and the need for reassurance to the employees of the hospital too.

I found this to be true during the second part of my chaplain training that was within a county government agency.

In this setting, the role of the chaplain was to minister to stressed out county employees who were overwhelmed by the needs of molested and abused children their agency was responsible to care for.

Ministry Of The Wounded Healer

Yet spiritual care givers dare not see themselves beyond needing their own spiritual doubts spoken too, or needing to be encouraged in their faith journey. I am keenly aware that I minister out of my own pain as a wounded healer.

A chaplaincy career can be one of the most positive career choices that wounded shepherds can make when they admit their own brokenness and inner pain.

You will note that I use terms like leaving ministry and pastor burnout in my writings. I have chosen to reframe what appear as negative pastoral career experiences into positive career change motivation.

Yes, by defining healthcare chaplain role to be that of serving others as a wounded healer, becoming a chaplain equipped me to serve God first as a hospital chaplain, then as a hospice chaplain, and even as a corporate chaplain.

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