A spiritual care provider meeting with a patient

We have the equivalent of four full-time spiritual care staff at Grand River Hospital, as well as approximately 35 volunteers and over 300 credentialed local faith community leaders.

Often, we run into questions or misconceptions about how we can help you. Here are some myths and facts about spiritual care providers (SCPs):

Myth: SCPs are not needed if a social worker is involved.

Fact: While SCPs and social workers have similarities, each discipline has its own scope of practice for psycho-social-spiritual work.

Myth: SCPs are the same as ministers and priests and can perform the same rites and duties.

Fact: SCPs are theologically and clinically trained clergy or lay persons who provide spiritual care to all persons without displacing religious leaders.

Myth: SCPs are fully qualified because of their previous work in a church.

Fact: SCPs require graduate theological education, faith group endorsement and two years of clinical pastoral education.

Myth: SCPs should only be contacted when clients have obvious or stated religious needs or interests.

Fact: SCPs can be contacted when clients are struggling to find relief from physical symptoms or feelings of distress, looking for hope or meaning in the midst of illness, and/or wanting religious support.

Myth: SCPs should only be referred to clients when death is imminent.

Fact: SCPs provide spiritual support through all phases of palliative and end-of-life care.

Myth: SCPs do not need or use formal assessment tools.

Fact: SCPs assess the spiritual needs of clients in various ways, including formal assessment tools.

Myth: SCPs work on their own and not with the team of care providers.

Fact: SCPs collaborate with the inter-professional team to support client and family-centred care.

Myth: SCPs try to change what clients believe by preaching to or trying to convert them.

Fact: SCPs respect the unique personal journey of each client’s faith and spirituality.

Myth: SCPs belong to all faiths or are not a part of any faith.

Fact: SCPs maintain endorsement by, and good standing with, a recognized faith group.

Myth: SCPs must keep everything that they are told confidential, like in a confession.

Fact: SCPs abide by civil law with regard to confidentiality and communicate with the inter-professional team to convey information that is necessary for the provision of client and family-centred care.

With thanks to members of the Waterloo-Wellington Hospital Palliative Care Team and Garth Wittich, Spiritual Care Provider