Dealing with death, injury, and serious illness can be quite challenging, and many find comfort in their conversations with a chaplain. Chaplaincy provides spiritual support to hospital patients, staff members, first responders, and families. Non-denominational chaplains are available at any hour, providing a caring presence, emotional and spiritual guidance, and non-judgmental support. Whether it’s a time of prayer or a time of celebration, chaplains are there.

Chaplains are available to support those in need, regardless of their spiritual path. Patients, caregivers, and first responders do not need a religious affiliation to receive chaplaincy services. However, when a person does belong to a faith community, a chaplain can arrange for a visit from a rabbi, minister, priest, imam, or another spiritual adviser.


Aside from their advisory work, chaplains offer workshops and lectures for local clergy, religious leaders, and community organizations. Families and patients often search for pastoral care in these situations:

When facing anxiety about a medical condition or upcoming treatment

In facing a difficult decision

Having spiritual questions or religious concerns

Desiring religious sacraments and lacking clergy

Grieving a loss

Gratitude for a positive outcome


  • Non-denominational prayer
  • Relaxation and guided meditation for pain relief
  • Access to support groups
  • Help with bereavement, loss, and grief
  • Religious sacraments and rituals
  • Emotional and spiritual support during stressful times
  • Coordination and contact with a person’s religious community
  • Presence during weddings, memorial services, baptisms, and welcoming ceremonies for newborns
  • Sacred literature

Chaplains often work with hospital staff, providing:

  • Support and help with patients’ end-of-life concerns
  • Ethics advice
  • Interventions and assessments for spiritual healing
  • Participation and support at physician/family meetings
  • Explanations of patients’ spiritual and cultural needs, including dietary restrictions and treatment preferences
  • Care planning


A chaplain’s essential role is to work with others to provide holistic care. Simply put, holistic care focuses on a person’s physical, social, spiritual, and emotional well-being and health. These pastoral practitioners seek to build trusting relationships through their compassionate presence, offering support and help wherever it is needed.

For instance, a chaplain may focus on a person’s adjustment to a serious illness, or they may help families find purpose and meaning during trying times. Bereavement care, crisis help, and assistance with relational issues are some of the most common areas in which chaplains work.

Chaplains work collaboratively alongside police, paramedics, and healthcare staff to provide spiritual, social, and psychological services for families and patients. They’re called in on an as-needed basis, contributing to overall care plans through regular cooperation and involvement with various teams. However, a chaplain’s focus is to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between illness, faith, and the mental and emotional conflicts that may arise. Chaplains seek to help individuals use their attitudes and religious beliefs to manage their difficulties.

The role of the chaplain is a supportive one; they serve as counselors and guides for patients. Though their patient ministry is a primary responsibility, a chaplain will also respond to family members’ needs.

Chaplaincy teams are sometimes involved with hospital staff as well. In this capacity, a chaplain will provide staff advice, support, and advocacy, and they may become involved in competence and disciplinary proceedings.


Chaplaincy Focus for Patients

  • The development of an integrated ministry of pastoral guidance, support, encouragement, and nurturing
  • Providing information on religious traditions as well as access to rituals and resources
  • Helping patients cope with the spiritual, psychological, and social aspects of their conditions
  • Offering counseling services associated with the issues patients face, such as forgiveness, guilt, and the fear of death
  • Serving as an intermediary between staff and patients, families and staff, or families and patients, as needed
  • Providing the patient with necessary religious resources
  • Representing the widespread religious community
  • Inviting patients to share their thoughts and explore the greater meaning behind their experiences
  • Working with patients’ friends and family to help them heal and support the individual
  • Exploring resources for spiritual growth, healing, and rehabilitation

Chaplaincy for Medical Staff

  • Work with medical staff in a client support capacity
  • Provide pastoral care to hospital staff members
  • Establish training functions and seminars for those interested in developing their psycho-social and spiritual service capabilities
  • Help professionals point out and resolve their own issues and needs by providing support and demonstrating the value of their contributions
  • Serving as a go-between in complex healthcare situations
  • Working as a human resource for those addressing the complicated ethical issues associated with healthcare decisions
  • Fostering good relationships between churches and the communities they serve
  • Helping local churches develop chaplaincy support programs
  • Developing a laypersons’ group to help chaplaincy teams provide better care to patients


The most fundamental part of the human condition is when a person comes face-to-face with his or her own mortality. Whether they’re working in a hospital or in another setting, a chaplain offers a comforting, non-judgmental presence in tough times for families, patients, and staff members. Because a chaplain is an unbiased part of the greater care team, they’re an invaluable resource in providing reassurance and facilitating difficult conversations. Whether it’s a religious concern, physical condition, or a need for prayer and quiet reflection, chaplains are here to serve the community.