Strides in Addressing Chaplain Shortage
Studies have overwhelmingly shown that people with serious illness want spirituality included in their care. But there’s a real shortage of hospice-trained chaplains throughout the national Capital region and the United States.
To help meet this need, Capital Caring in 2007 established a Chaplain Resident
Fellowship Program – the only one of its kind in the DC area to institute chaplain education and training in hospice/palliative care.
Capital Caring partners with Goodwin House, an innovative retirement community that modified its existing Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) curriculum to include hospice and palliative care components taught by Capital Caring staff.
The program offers accredited training, concentrating on the development of self-awareness, formation of pastoral identity, professional functioning, and the ability to address issues from a clinical and pastoral perspective.
During the one-year residency, the Fellow serves as chaplain at our Halquist Inpatient Center in Arlington, reporting to the center’s Executive Director and supervised by the Director of the Goodwin House CPE program.Capital Caring’s current Resident Fellow, Kyungwon Cho, earned his Master’s Degree in Divinity from Yale University prior to joining Capital Caring. A vital member of the Interdisciplinary Care Team, he sees his job as that of capturing the special concerns – both emotional and spiritual – of patients and families.
For example, Kyung described his interactions with Mrs. N, a 36-year-old patient who was actively dying of cancer – a young mom with three small children. Kyung helped her do a life review, during which she voiced the concerns she had for her children. He suggested that she write to each child. Three notebooks were provided and – with the chaplain’s support and encouragement– Mrs. N expressed in writing her enormous love for her children and her prayers for their futures. The act of writing was a great source of comfort to Mrs. N; and after their mother died, each child had a treasured expression of her devotion.
The chaplain also serves as the link between hospice services, the patient/family, and the patient’s faith leader. And hospice-trained chaplains work with the broader religious community, helping community leaders in the pastoral care of their parishioners, enhancing their understanding of end-of-life care, and conducting education events for pastors and others.
What has Kyung learned on the job? “I’ve found that people don’t talk much about their career or their own accomplishments when they’re approaching the end of life,” he says. “They talk about the important people in their lives – their families, friends, neighbors – people who were near and dear to them. At the end of the day, it’s those relationships and those stories that matter the most.”