A growing number of health facilities hold a unique vision, mission, and holistic approach to patients.

The following is a sample taken with permission from the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s Spiritual Health Program:

  • Vision – A health care environment where spiritual and religious care, comfort and hope are integrated into the healing journey – holistic health care for the whole person.
  • Mission – We contribute to VIHA’s mission of “serving and involving the people of the islands to maintain and improve health.”  Spiritual Health promotes the
    spiritual well-being of individuals, families, staff and communities by
    providing professional support through linkages with the community faith

Philosophy of the Spiritual Health Care Department
The Spiritual Health Caregiver (ie chaplain or pastor to seniors) affirms that all of life – birth, growth, deterioration, pain and death –remain under the sovereign hand of God. “My times are in His hands.” Experiencing acceptance by God, through His grace and our simple faith; having growing relationships with others and accepting myself are all essential to life. Thus, the caregiver attempts to visit the patient with honesty and respect, so that good communication may occur, allowing wholeness to be achieved –all essential for personal healing.

The scope of a caregivers involvement includes working closely with the entire caregiver team including: giving direct care to patients, family members and hospital staff.  It is also our goal, as Caregivers, to raise awareness within the greater Health Community, of the importance of caring for the human spirit!

Biblical Foundation for Visitation

Visitation is a quiet ministry that takes place out of the limelight (Matthew 25: 31-46). “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.” Few see what we do when visiting. However, our presence and quiet work makes an eternal difference.

Visitation is the hallmark of our pure and faultless faith. (James 1:27)

Visitation is more than a brief conversation; rather, visitation oversees the wellbeing of others. We are part of a team. ( i.e. In James 1:27, “Visiting” is the same word for elders who “oversee” the flock)

Visitation is “being the presence of Jesus among the distressed and vulnerable

Goals of Spiritual Health Care

The Caregiver is an essential element of the healing team as he/she:

  • Encourages grace-filled and honest communication between patient, family and hospital  staff;
  • Facilitates the integration of physical, social, emotional and spiritual healing resources;
  • Enables the patient to mobilize inner, personal resources for personal healing;
  • Helps patient and family discover new purpose and meaning in living;
  • Uniquely models the caring and loving presence of Christ, who graciously offers to help us all in our living.

Guidelines for Hospital Visitation

  • Call ahead when appropriate: When planning a visit, it is always appropriate to call ahead to the Hospital Unit and/or Nurses’ Station and ask when would be a good time to visit; it is best not to visit patients in acute care before mid-morning, as this is when they are receiving personal care.
  • Pray ahead and prepare before visiting. Have some Scripture passages ready that the Lord has placed on your mind for the visit; but chose passages of encouragement and hope.
  • Check at the Nursing Station, identify yourself and mention the name(s)
    of the patients you wish to visit.  Many hospitals encourage clergy/chaplains to wear visible identification tags when visiting.
  • Confidentiality is very important – anything you learn about the medical status of any and all patients is privileged information and their privacy must be respected.  *If you are permitted access to patient lists, these are extremely confidential and must not be removed!
  • Respect privacy: If the curtains are drawn around a patients’ bed, it is because he/she needs privacy; check at the Nursing Station and ask how long it will be before you can visit; or merely come back later.
  • Please, do not visit in the hospital if you have any infections (colds, flu, boils, fevers or rashes) which might be transmitted to patients!
  • Brevity is a virtue in a hospital visit; however, there are times when a longer visit is appropriate. Take your cues from the patient. Watch for signs of weariness or lulls in the conversation that might suggest they are tired or uncomfortable. Fifteen minutes is the general rule.
  • Sit where the patient can easily see you (this implies “I am available to you.”), establishing easy eye contact by sitting on a chair. Standing gives the impression that you are in a hurry. As much as possible, ignore the hospital setting, and create the relaxed atmosphere you need to listen and respond fully to the patient. Do not sit on the bed; that is their only living space.
  • Do not major on how a patient appears; let them tell you how they feel – appearances are often misleading. Discern the patient’s emotional level and simply assist them in facing their fears or challenges or hopes and joys ( eg “ I am going home tomorrow!”)
  • Be cheerful, but not necessarily cheery; be friendly, but not patronizing; be pleasant, but not boisterous; be hopeful, but not especially prophetic; be sympathetic but not pitying; be interested, but not curious; be encouraging, but avoid false assurance – using moderation and respect as guiding principles and in deference to the patient, avoid the usage of strong perfumes and aftershaves.
  • Moderate your reactions to their situations. (eg. avoid showing shock with your patient; never argue, ridicule or assign blame )– but always bring comfort, understanding, and a willingness to be an active listener.
  • Finally, when you feel led to pray, ask for the patient’s permission and then proceed.
    Avoid being loud and prominent – it is God, not you, who will accomplish the good work! Sometimes it is appropriate to ask them, “How do you want me to pray?”.

It will not always be possible for you to see the patient you wish to visit; and if an
emergency occurs, or if any staff requires you to step out for any reason, please do so. Be flexible. *Remember: the PATIENT always comes FIRST!

Written by Rev. Keith Johnson