Hospital Chaplains: Through the Eyes of Parents of Hospitalized Children
Background: Chaplain services are available in 68% of hospitals, but hospital chaplains are not yet incorporated into routine patient care. Objectives: To describe how families of hospitalized children view and utilize hospital chaplains. Design: Telephone survey with 40 questions: Likert, yes/no, and short-answer responses. Subjects: Parents visited by a hospital chaplain during their child’s hospitalization in a tertiary care center. Measurements: Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the sample. Nonparametrics were used to compare religious versus nonreligious parents. Regression was used to identify independent predictors of a chaplain visit positively influencing satisfaction with hospital care. Results: Seventy-four parents were interviewed; most were 25–50 years old, and 75% felt their child was very sick. Children ranged from newborn to adolescence. Forty-two percent of parents requested a chaplain visit; of the 58% with an unsolicited visit, 11% would have preferred giving prior approval. Parents felt that chaplains provided religious and secular services, including family support and comfort, help with decision making, medical terminology, and advocacy. Chaplains helped most parents maintain hope and reduce stress. Seventy-five percent of parents viewed chaplains as a member of the healthcare team; 38% reported that chaplains helped medical personnel understand their preferences for care and communication. Most parents (66%) felt that hospital chaplaincy increased their satisfaction with hospital care. Conclusion: Families play a fundamental role in the recovery of hospitalized children. Parents view hospital chaplains as members of the healthcare team and report that they play an important role in the well-being of the family during childhood hospitalization. Chaplains positively influence satisfaction with hospital care.