September 2002

Report Affirms Chaplains’ Value
to Health Care Team

A report from the Catholic Health Initiatives Task Force on Chaplain Performance and Productivity Measures shows that while there is a system-wide lack of clarity related to understanding, articulating and measuring what chaplains do, chaplains are consistently perceived as adding value to the distinctive culture of Catholic Health Initiatives. The report is the result of an 18-month study project conducted by the task force, which attempted to define:
  • A common language to describe what chaplains do.
  • The typical outcomes of their work.
  • The most appropriate way to measure their productivity.
"Most measures of chaplain productivity are based on volume statistics, such as the number of patient visits made each day," said Jerry Broccolo, vice president of spirituality for Catholic Health Initiatives and leader of the task force. "However, that type of measurement cannot capture the depth and breadth of the competencies chaplains need to serve patients, families and caregivers. Designing an appropriate measurement is very challenging, and the task force did not develop a definitive method. However, we learned a great deal about chaplain activities, required competencies and performance expectations, which is all shared in the report." Complex tasks The lack of objective, consistent measurement of the effectiveness of chaplaincy services means that chaplains’ role on the health care team is not always fully understood or appreciated, according to John Tolmie, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md., one of eight market-based organizations involved in the task force study. "Chaplains are called on to do things as straightforward as administering sacraments and as complex as dealing with the first or last days of life," he said. "They are a visible sign of our mission, an expression of our core values and a tremendous support to our employees. They are also critical to our ability to treat patients in a holistic manner." The chaplains involved in the study came to realize that while their competencies are very different from those of other health professionals, they bring valuable capabilities to the health care team. The task force found that chaplains themselves are often not fully aware of their own level of professionalism or the complexity of their work. "The chaplains involved in the study came to realize that while their competencies are very different from those of other health professionals, they bring valuable capabilities to the health care team," said Nancy Conner, director of spiritual/ pastoral care at St. Joseph in Towson. "The chaplains showed some resistance to using science to measure theology, but came to understand that their work has value that can be reflected in standards of care."

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Data on satisfaction with chaplaincy services As a part of the study, the task force worked with a consultant to gather data on family satisfaction with chaplaincy services delivered at the time of a patient’s death. "This data is still being analyzed, but it clearly shows that many families see chaplains as surrogate family members who get them through a loved one’s death," Conner said. Conner has already seen some results from the work of the task force among the 15 chaplains she manages. "Our staff now talks about the ‘acuity’ of the tasks they perform," she said. "They talk about what they do in language that is more familiar to clinicians. As a result, clinical staff referrals to chaplaincy services have increased." Catholic Health Initiatives will hold national conference calls on October 25 and 28 to give market-based directors of spiritual/pastoral care the opportunity to talk with members of the task force about the implications of the study project and report. "The task force report doesn’t prescribe an approach to assessing the productivity and efficiency of chaplains," said Tolmie. "Instead, it educates us on the value of chaplaincy services and gives us guidance in how to fully utilize their skills." In addition, Broccolo noted that another publication will soon be available to chaplains: the Catholic Health Initiatives Chaplains Manual is being finalized for distribution this fall. "This handbook will provide practical resources, tools and techniques for developing skills related to chaplain performance expectations," said Broccolo. To request a copy of the final report of the Chaplain Performance and Productivity Measures Task Force, contact Ann-Marie Jackson at