Professional Chaplains and Health Care Quality Improvement

Project launched in March 2007

Download Can We Measure Good Chaplaincy?, an essay set featured in Hastings Center Report (Nov-Dec 2008).

Download Professional Chaplains and Health Care Quality Improvement, Summary of Activities 2008.

Project Co-directors:
Nancy Berlinger
Martha Jacobs, The HealthCare Chaplaincy

Project Consultants (qualitative research):
George Fitchett, Clayton Thomason, and Kathryn Lyndes
Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values
Rush University Medical Center

Project Funder: Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

Project Goals and Objectives

The project explored how quality of care is understood within the “professionalizing” profession of chaplaincy; the challenges inherent in defining, measuring, and improving quality in less-standardized areas of health care delivery; and the current and potential role of chaplaincy in improving the quality of health care in the United States.

By describing the ethics of quality in health care in terms of chaplaincy, the products of this project were intended to help chaplaincy directors create substantive, ethically sound quality improvement programs for their departments, and contribute to organizational QI efforts. The products were also designed to help health care administrators better understand the profession of chaplaincy and the current and potential role of the chaplain in the delivery of quality care to patients and their families. In addition, professional organizations within chaplaincy, and organizations whose standards and guidelines cover chaplaincy, could use the products to address the challenge of applying existing measures of quality in health care to this profession.

This project contributed to the small body of empirical research on chaplains and chaplaincy, and it identified opportunities for further research and education.

Professional Chaplaincy and Health Care Quality Improvement: Working Group

Nancy Berlinger, PhD, MDiv, project co-director, is deputy director and associate for religious studies at The Hastings Center. She is the author of After Harm: Medical Error and the Ethics of Forgiveness (Johns Hopkins, pb 2007), and directs the Center’s Guidelines on End of Life Care project.

Nessa Coyle, NP, PhD, is a member of the pain and palliative care service of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She is the co-editor, with Betty Ferrell, of the Textbook of Palliative Nursing (Oxford, 2nd ed., 2005).

Raymond De Vries, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Bioethics Program at the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He is a co-editor of The View from Here: Bioethics and the Social Sciences (Blackwell, 2007).

George Fitchett, DMin, PhD, is a board certified chaplain and an associate professor and director of research in the Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center. He is the principal investigator for this project’s empirical research component.

Kevin Flannelly, PhD, is the associate director of research in the Center for Pastoral Care, Education & Research at The HealthCare Chaplaincy.

Rev. Jeffery Garland, DMin, EdS, is a board certified chaplain at St. Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange, New Jersey.

Rev. George Handzo,MDiv, is a board certified chaplain and associate vice president for strategic development at The HealthCare Chaplaincy. He served as president of the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC), the largest credentialing organization for chaplains, from 2002-2004, and until recently chaired the Council on Collaboration, comprised of the six major credentialing organizations in the United States and Canada.

Rev. Martha R. Jacobs, DMin, MDiv, project co-director, is a board certified chaplain and the associate director of outreach and community-based programs at The HealthCare Chaplaincy. She is the editor of PlainViews, an electronic newsletter for chaplains and other spiritual care providers.

Rev. David R. Jenkins, DMin, is the director of chaplaincy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Rabbi Laurence A. Kotok, DD, is the senior rabbi at Temple B’rith Kodesh in Rochester, New York.

Carol Levine, MA, directs the United Hospital Fund’s Families and Health Care Project, which released its “New York State Policy Agenda for Family Caregivers” in 2006. She is the editor of Always on Call: When Illness Turns Families into Caregivers (Vanderbilt, pb 2004) and the co-editor, with Thomas H. Murray, of The Cultures of Caregiving: Conflict and Common Ground among Families, Health Professionals, and Policy Makers (Johns Hopkins, pb 2007).

Kathryn Lyndes, MDiv, PhD, is the focus group facilitator and research assistant for this project’s empirical component, conducted in collaboration with the Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center.

Margaret E. Mohrmann, MD, PhD, is the Emily Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation Professor of Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia, where she is also professor of pediatrics and medical education and associate professor of religious studies and directs the Program in Biomedical Ethics. She is the author of Attending Children: A Doctor’s Education (Georgetown, 2005) and Medicine As Ministry: Reflections on Suffering, Ethics, and Hope (Pilgrim Press, 1995) and the co-editor of Seeking Understanding: Suffering, Medicine, and Faith (Pilgrim Press, 1999).

Rev. Jon A. Overvold, MDiv, is a board certified chaplain and director of pastoral care and education at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York. He chairs the Association of Professional Chaplains’ Commission on Quality in Pastoral Services.

Joseph F. Perez, MDiv, is a board certified chaplain and vice president of pastoral services at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas.

David H. Smith, PhD, is the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University. He is the author of Partnership with the Dying: Where Medicine and Ministry Should Meet (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005).

Martin L. Smith, STD, MDiv, is director of clinical ethics in the Department of Bioethics at the Cleveland Clinic.

Rev. Clayton L. Thomason, JD, MDiv, is the chair of the Department of Religion, Health, and Human Values at Rush University Medical Center, and a staff investigator on this project’s empirical component

Rev. George L. West, DMin, is director of the Department of Pastoral Services at AnMed Health in Anderson, South Carolina.

Amy Wilson-Stronks, MPP, is a certified professional in healthcare quality and a project director in the Division of Standards and Survey Methods at The Joint Commission. She is the principal investigator for the Joint Commission’s Hospitals, Language, and Culture project.

Rev. Sue Wintz, MDiv, is a board certified chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She is president-elect of the Association of Professional Chaplains.

For more information about the Professional Chaplaincy and Health Care Quality Improvement project, please contact Nancy Berlinger at 

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