Title

Chaplains' support of staff.

Date of Award

5-1-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

School

Drew Theological School

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

Abstract

This project explores how chaplains support staff members at the Women's and Children's Hospital. The hospital is part of the South Australian Government's health system. The project began because of a staff member's account of exclusion from support following an incident. The project involves interviews with staff to understand how they experience and perceive chaplains' support for them. The interviews were analyzed to uncover themes and common threads. Two major themes are evident. One theme being the support that chaplains provide as part of the institution or organization such as being part of a team, their educational contribution, their symbolic role and providing support in formal responses to crisis and trauma. The other is the relational role of the chaplains as they utilize spontaneous moments to care, such as conversations in the corridor, being available when needed, making time for coffee and combining this with an inclusive and respectful attitude. Staff members speak of the multi-cultural, multi-faith context and secular nature of the public hospital system, and the ways that chaplains both negotiate this environment and provide respectful and non-judgmental care to patients, their families and staff. They also value that the chaplains offer a different perspective from those of the medical and nursing staff by bringing pastoral and spiritual insights to the conversation. The context of this project is the Australian society with its suspicion of institutions and the church in particular. The patient, family and staff population of the hospital largely comprise a cohort who has little or no church affiliation. Australians speak of spirituality but are suspicious of religion. Yet, in the relational themes that staff members describe is the identification of the hospital as a village or community and the chaplains as the village priest or "holy man." Chaplains are also valued for their ability to engage with the spiritual conversations and provide appropriate rituals, blessings and prayers. Staff members overwhelmingly speak of how chaplains support them in their workplace, often in informal and relational ways. Chaplains are valued and appreciated. What began as a story of exclusion concludes with a narrative of inclusion.