Spiritual Care Services facilitates religious rituals and personal spiritual practices and provides emotional support and exploration of issues that are of meaning and value to patients, their families and loved ones, and UCSF faculty, staff, and students. Chaplains aim to support everyone in their spiritual journeys, whatever paths they may choose – including those who do not hold to any religious affiliation. We are available 24 hours every day by contacting our on-call pagers (at Parnassus, Mount Zion, and Mission Bay) or the on-call Voalté phone (at Mission Bay). On Mondays through Fridays, chaplains – including staff chaplains and interns – visit patients during the daytime. During evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, an on-duty chaplain responds to all requests and referrals. Chaplains make approximately 60,000 inpatient visits annually.
Many people find that talking with a chaplain can help during hospitalization and while experiencing the uncertainty of illness. Chaplains with Spiritual Care Services provide spiritual support to patients, family members, friends and staff members at UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at Parnassus, Mount Zion, and Mission Bay campuses. Chaplains are:
- An integral part of our interdisciplinary health care team.
- Able to represent many faiths and are able to provide support to patients who are not affiliated with a congregation or faith community.
- Able to contact a patient’s minister, rabbi, priest, imam, or other spiritual advisors to arrange for a visit, when requested.
- Available around-the clock to be a caring presence, offer spiritual and emotional support, and listen with openness and understanding.
Chaplains also are available for times of celebration, prayer and rituals. Patients, families and staff are also encouraged to call a chaplain when they need someone to talk to and are experiencing feelings of:
- grief or loss
Many patients in the Medical Center receive medical care that potentially or ultimately changes how they perceive themselves as people. Chaplains are available 24 hours per day to address these religious/spiritual needs. This might include spiritual, emotional, and intellectual support and conversation with patients, family members, and visitors as appropriate about how the patient’s life has been changed for better or for worse.
Given the diversity of the patient population, when requested, chaplains match patients’ cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic needs with appropriate Medical Center resources and representatives from community faith traditions. Whenever there is a special request for a representative from a specific religious tradition, every attempt is made to secure those services within a 24-hour period by utilizing an extensive referral list that is maintained by the department. Until the request is met, the chaplain provides necessary support. Given the high census of Catholic patients at the Medical Center, the department has an extensive number of volunteer Eucharistic ministers and a contract with the Archdiocese of San Francisco to ensure 24-hour coverage for those patients.
Every initial visit of a patient by a chaplain includes an initial assessment. The chaplain assesses the person’s emotional and spiritual needs and resources. Such needs may include a patient’s desire to have contact with her or his own religious tradition, the need to receive religious/spiritual support from the chaplain, the need to receive specific rituals or services, etc. Upon a patient’s admission, an initial nursing assessment by the nurse may result in a referral to the chaplain. Social workers and physicians also make assessments that result in referrals to Spiritual Care Services. Other healthcare staff members who assess the patient’s need for spiritual care may page the 24-hour on-call chaplain pager. The on-call chaplain responds to the request or referral.
All staff members in the Medical Center are invited to utilize chaplains for support. All staff requests for chaplains receive a quick, efficient, and prioritized response. In addition, following traumatic events in a clinical area or on campus, Spiritual Care Services contacts the involved persons and offers the opportunity for individual or group clinical incident stress debriefings. Upon the request of clinical departments, Spiritual Care Services also designs and facilitates educational opportunities for staff about topics of spiritual and emotional caregiving.
Feedback about the effectiveness of the service is provided through patient satisfaction surveys. The results of the surveys are reviewed, and appropriate changes are made to address the needs identified by the survey responses. Feedback is also solicited from the inpatient care staff regarding the services provided by the assigned unit chaplain. Changes are made to the service according to feedback received.
Chaplains receive training and printed guidelines to facilitate compassionate and efficient care. Chaplains also follow the policies and procedures of the Medical Center regarding infection control, environmental health and safety, patients’ rights, confidentiality, workplace guidelines for sexual harassment, workplace violence, substance abuse and dangerous weapons, and other pertinent policies. The professional practices of the department conform to standards and codes of ethics established by the University of California, the Association of Professional Chaplains, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, and the Spiritual Care Collaborative.