Letters to the Editor

Chaplains help treat patients’ spiritual needs

When people are sick or hurting, they are more than the sum of their illnesses or injuries.

Real caring and healing means focusing on the whole person — body, mind and spirit.

When the whole person is treated — rather than just the fractured hip, diabetes complications, or even cancer — the whole person is healed. This body-mind-spirit approach is not touchy-feely nonsense.

Research indicates that patients place a high value on their emotional and spiritual health and well-being. As highly trained members of an interdisciplinary team, professional chaplains are uniquely equipped to add the human touch, the compassionate presence and the calm reassurance in these difficult times.

With their bedside visits, they can help alleviate feelings of anxiety, fear and loneliness for people both religious and non-religious across a broad spectrum of backgrounds.

With the proven benefits that professional chaplain services provide in hospital, hospice and other healthcare settings, one would think that every institution in Florida and across the United States would take advantage of this invaluable service.

But surprisingly, fewer than two-thirds of hospitals employ chaplains, according to the American Hospital Annual Survey of Hospitals. And those who do employ chaplains often have inadequate staffing to meet all the patients’ needs. Also, many patients don’t understand what the role of a chaplain and when admitted to a hospital may decline the service.

It is time for healthcare institutions to not only recognize the need to address the spiritual needs of patients, but also to provide the effective and compassionate professional chaplains who can meet this need.

Mary-Margaret (Margie) Atkinson, director, Pastoral Care and Ethics,

Morton Plant Mease Hospitals/Bay Care Health System,