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Transcending differences to study the transcendent: an exploratory study of researchers' and chaplains' reflections on interdisciplinary spiritual care research collaboration.



Despite recognition of the centrality of professional board-certified chaplains (BCC) in palliative care, the discipline has little research to guide its practices. To help address this limitation, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network funded six proposals in which BCCs worked collaboratively with established researchers. Recognizing the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the development of a new field, this paper reports on an exploratory study of project members' reflections over time on the benefits and challenges of conducting inter-disciplinary spiritual care research.


Data collection occurred in two stages. Stage 1 entailed two independent, self-reflective focus groups, organized by professional discipline, mid-way through the site projects. Stage 2 entailed end-of-project site reports and a conference questionnaire.


Eighteen professionals participated in the group discussions. Stage 1: researchers perceived chaplains as eager workers passionately committed to their patients and to research, and identified challenges faced by chaplains in learning to conduct research. Chaplains perceived researchers as passionate about their work, were concerned research might uncover negative findings for their profession, and sensed they used a dissimilar paradigm from their research colleagues regarding the 'ways of relating' to knowledge and understanding. Stage 2: researchers and chaplains noted important changes they ascribed to the interdisciplinary collaboration that were classified into six domains of cultural and philosophical understanding: respect; learning; discovery; creativity; fruitful partnerships; and learning needs.


Chaplains and researchers initially expressed divergent perspectives on the research collaborations. During the projects' lifespans, these differences were acknowledged and addressed. Mutual appreciation for each discipline's strengths and contributions to inter-professional dialogue emerged.


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    Research, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, New York, USA. Global Health Researcher, Nairobi, Kenya.


    Research and Education, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, 65 Broadway, 12th Floor, New York, NY, 10006-2503, USA. Geriatric Medicine and Buehler Center on Aging, Health & Society, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, USA.


    Health Services, Research and Quality, HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, New York, USA.


    Pediatrics, Children's Mercy Hospital and University of Missouri at Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, USA.


    Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, USA.


    Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


    Center of Excellence for End-of-Life Transition Research, Department of Biobehavioral Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago, Illinois, USA.


    Mission and Spiritual Care, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


    Advocate Health Care, Downers Grove, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


    Department of Mission and Spiritual Care, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


    Emory Palliative Care Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


    Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, Center for Pastoral Education, The Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, USA.


    Department of Medicine, Duke University, North Carolina, USA.


    Department of Religion, Health and Human Values, Rush University Medical Center, College of Health Sciences, Rush University, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


    Clinical Pastoral Education, Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, CT, USA.


    Clinical Administrative Chaplain, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.


    Departments of Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.

    Chaplaincy Services, Children's Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, USA.


    BMC palliative care 14: 2015 pg 12


    Chaplaincy Service, Hospital
    Cooperative Behavior
    Focus Groups
    Health Services Research
    Interdisciplinary Communication
    Middle Aged
    Palliative Care
    Patient Care Team
    Research Personnel
    Surveys and Questionnaires

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't



    PubMed ID