National Spiritual Care Week recognizes spiritual caregivers
This year’s theme to focus on advancing spiritual care through research
By Malorie Burkett
VCU College of Health Professions
The Department of Patient Counseling in VCU’s College of Health Professions observes National Spiritual Care Week this year from Oct. 24-30, which gives opportunities for organizations and institutions of all kinds to recognize the spiritual caregivers in their midst and their ministry which the caregivers provide.
Spiritual Care Week/Pastoral Care Week is hosted by The COMISS Network, the Network on Ministry in Specialized Settings. The theme this year is “advancing spiritual care through research.”
“As a chaplain researcher, research being conducted by chaplains about our vocation is very important to me,” said Rev. Marilyn J.D. Barnes, chair of the Department of Patient Counseling, VCU College of Health Professions. “I honestly believe that my chaplain clinical practice informs my research, and my research informs my practice.”
Barnes will be presenting and serving on a webinar panel focusing on “How research informs my practice” during Spiritual Care Week. She says the Patient Counseling Department has conducted numerous research studies on the impact of the work chaplains do and within the department’s strategic plan, and they will continue that legacy.
According to the Spiritual Care Week website:
Today chaplains and spiritual care providers exist in a data-driven and evidence-based world, particularly for those who work in health settings. Thus, the need to provide empirical evidence related to the care provided by chaplains and spiritual care providers. The needed evidence may be gained through qualitative and quantitative research methods.
The VCU College of Health Professions Department of Patient Counseling will kick off Spiritual Care Week with the Good Grief Conference, designed to educate and equip interprofessional health care teams, chaplains, volunteer caregivers and others working with those experiencing grief, whether related to health crises, chronic or life-changing situations, end of life or bereavement issues. This year’s conference theme is “journeying through loss towards hope.”
During Spiritual Care Week, the VCU Health Department of Pastoral Care also will introduce a name change to the Department of Spiritual Care.
“As the vocation of Chaplaincy continues to evolve, we are changing from the department of Pastoral Care to Spiritual Care to be more inclusive,” said Barnes. “We are connecting with the spirit of those we serve regardless of their faith. As chaplains we offer spiritual and emotional care focusing on person-centered care and the name Spiritual Care better reflects what chaplains do at VCU Health. My hope is the name change will be embraced by the VCU Health System and facilitate a better understanding of what chaplains do as we care for staff, patients, and families.”
Additional events throughout the week also will include a department retreat, the Partners in Healing recognition ceremony and a service project in partnership with Caritas.
Since 1995, the Departments of Spiritual Care and Patient Counseling have recognized a total of 193 team members in other disciplines as Partners in Healing to honor individuals who go above and beyond their job descriptions, and who embody the principles of compassionate care for patients, their families, and are partners in healing with chaplains.
“The honorees advocate for spiritual care while incorporating it into their practice, directing their care not just toward the body, but also toward the head, heart and soul,” said Joshua Andrzejewski, assistant professor in the Department of Patient Counseling, and chaplain for the pediatric and women's health units at the VCU Medical Center. “As part of Spiritual Care Week, we honor our partners with a gathering to celebrate their dedication and devotion. Over the years, we have presented the award to nurses, physicians, members of environmental services, social workers, interpreters, volunteers from the community and many others throughout the health system and beyond.”
The week will culminate with a group service project, in which members of Patient Counseling and other partners from VCU Health, will assemble individual toiletry bags, which will be donated to those in need.