A prospective study of the roles, responsibilities and stresses of chaplains working within a hospice.Palliat Med 2004; 18(7):638-45PM
Spiritual care is an integral part of palliative care and if asked, most members of a palliative care team would state they address spiritual issues. The majority of hospices have support from a chaplain. This study was to determine the roles of chaplains within hospices and to look at their levels of stress. A questionnaire containing both open and closed questions was sent to chaplains working within hospices in the UK. The questionnaire enquired about number of sessions, specific roles of chaplain, whether they were members of the multidisciplinary team and their sources of internal support. Stress was measured on a 10-point Likert scale and the GHQ12. One hundred and fifteen questionnaires were returned, with a 72% response rate. The majority (62%) defined their denomination as Church of England and Free Church (24%); 71% of respondents had parish commitments in addition to their hospice role. Roles were predominantly defined as spiritual care of patients and staff (95%) and bereavement support of relatives (76%) and 75% regularly attended the multidisciplinary meetings. Senior medical and nursing staff and other chaplains were perceived as providing most support. Median Likert score for stressfulness was 5, and 23% scored at or above the threshold on the GHQ12 for identifiable psychological morbidity. Clear role definition was associated with less perceived stress whereas the provision of bereavement support was associated with statistically significant increased perceived stress. The role of a chaplain within a hospice is varied and this study suggests that the provision of training and formal support is to be recommended.