Hospice Chaplain: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Hospice chaplains work as part of a team with medical staff and clergy members to provide psychological, mental, physical and spiritual care and comfort to patients with seriously advanced illnesses. Certified chaplains are required to have earned a master's degree and completed Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).
Job Description for a Hospice Chaplain
Hospice chaplains provide spiritual support to terminally ill patients and their families. Chaplains generally work in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities but may also visit patients in their homes. These professionals make spiritual assessments of patients, taking into account mental, emotional, physical and spiritual stresses, and respond with appropriate counseling and care.
Chaplains are members of the interdisciplinary team, which is a group of specialists and professionals that provides guidance and support. Accordingly, they assist the medical staff in developing an individualized plan of care for each patient. Individualized plans may include daily spiritual consultations and performance of sacraments.
Hospice Chaplain's Duties
A hospice chaplain's primary responsibility is to provide emotional and spiritual counseling to patients and their families. Other duties may include submitting written reports on patient interactions and acting as liaisons between members of the clergy and hospice patients. Chaplains don't replace clergy members but rather are there to offer further support and communicate the needs of the patient. Additionally, chaplains provide bereavement services, including phone calls, visits and memorial services, to family members upon the death of a patient.
Requirements for a Hospice Chaplain
Most chaplains have earned a bachelor's degree in religious studies or a related subject and a master's degree in theology, divinity or pastoral studies. Courses may include biblical interpretation, human development and crises management. Master's degree programs require the completion of 72 semester hours, generally last three years and may include an internship or one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education defines one of unit of CPE as 400 hours of supervised meetings with persons in crises and includes ministry and peer evaluation.
Although the specific requirements for certification may vary based on affiliation, most organizations require chaplains to be ordained or commissioned to minister. Additionally, applicants must present a letter of endorsement for chaplaincy from a recognized faith group. Lastly, chaplains must have obtained an M.A. in Theology or a related subject and accrued four units of CPE. Maintenance of certification varies by institution but generally includes continuing education, a peer evaluation and an updated letter of endorsement.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 18% employment growth for clergy members in general, from 2010-2020. In 2012, average annual salaries for clergy members working for home health care services, hospitals, continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly ranged from about $44,000 to approximately $48,000.
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