Spiritual Caregiving

Healthcare as a Ministry

Verna Benner Carson Harold G. Koenig

With today's cumbersome insurance procedures, government regulations, endless paperwork, and concerns about malpractice rates, many health care professionals are asking: "Why am I doing this? Am I making a difference to my patients? Is there a better way—and if so, what is it?" In this book, Carson and Koenig examine the state of the health care system with the goal of providing healthcare professionals and caregivers the inspiration and practical tools to reclaim their sense of purpose.

The book begins with an evaluation of the current system from the perspective of the spiritual vision that initially motivated and nourished many caregivers. The authors then pose a vision of a health care system that supports and nurtures the spirituality of patients and their families, of which some elements already exist.

An overview is provided on the preparation necessary for health care professionals to offer spiritual care when there are major implications—for people with chronic illnesses, psychiatric issues, devastating injuries, and those preparing for surgery, facing death, and those living with chronic pain. Also explored are ways that health professionals and caregivers can maintain their own spiritual health even as they work to bring about healing, comfort, and solace to others.

Woven throughout the book are the personal narratives of physicians, nurses, chaplains, health care educators, community resource workers, administrators, therapists, and psychologists—all from a wide range of religious traditions. Their examples inspire and assist professionals in renewing the spiritual focus of health care.

Preface / ix

Acknowledgments / xv

1. Spiritual Caregiving: Healthcare as a Ministry / 1 

2. The State of the Current Healthcare System / 26 

3. Envisioning the Ideal / 48 

4. Preparation for Spiritual Caregiving / 69 

5. Providing Spiritual Care / 87

6. Giving Spiritual Care: The Patient with Chronic Illness and Pain / 111

7. Giving Spiritual Care: The Dying Patient / 128

8. Spiritual Care for Special Populations / 145

9. Nurturing the Self: Nurturing the Spirit / 162

10. A David-and-Goliath Match:Taking On the System / 178

Appendixes / 189

Endnotes / 221

Contributors / 231

Index / 235