Hospital-based pastors, often referred to as chaplains, offer spiritual care, nurturing, counseling and support to patients and families during a child’s hospital stay. They are typically ordained or lay chaplains who regularly visit patient floors. Some represent a specific faith while others offer multi-faith support.
For many people, faith is a vital part of everyday life. Since the need for spiritual guidance often grows during a critical illness, pastoral care can be an important part of a patient’s treatment, complimenting the medical care the child receives at the hospital.
The healthcare chaplain can help when an ill child:
- feels anxious about being in the hospital
- feels discouraged
- is upset
- is asking God, "Why?"
- wants someone to join him/her in prayer
- wants to receive the sacraments
- has heard some bad news
- has heard some good news
A hospital chaplain can also help the child’s family. They may need assistance in clarifying their options or help in understanding their feelings. Chaplains monitor children's progress through chemotherapy or surgery, rejoice with children and their families when the disease subsides, and pray with those who return to the hospital weeks or months later.
Liaison for Local Clergy
If a child’s family is part of a church home, the hospital chaplain may see the patient before the family’s minister is aware of the hospitalization. With the patient’s permission, the chaplain can call the family pastor, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader. Until the patient’s own minister arrives, the chaplain can also provide care and support.
Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH , Jeff Haney, BS and Martha A. Dimmers, MDiv, MSWSpiritual Care Needs of Hospitalized Children and Their Families: A National Survey of Pastoral Care Providers’ Perceptions (PEDIATRICS Vol. 111 No. 1 January 2003, pp. e67-e72) from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/111/1/e67