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Winter 2006 Newsletter

On-Line Newsletter Volume 4, Number 2
Published January 30, 2006

Edited by Chaplain John Ehman, Network Convener

Network members are encouraged to submit articles for upcoming issues
of the Newsletter, which is published three times a year: Fall, Winter, and Spring.
The Spring 2006 issue is scheduled to be posted in May.

Table of Contents

  1. Poster Presentations from the Hawaii Conference
  2. Update on the "Structured Descriptions" Project, with a Draft of a Student Manual
  3. Study of Oregon Hospice Chaplains and Physician-Assisted Suicide
  4. Web Finds: Accessing the General Social Survey Data
  5. Two Special Journal Issues Focusing on Spirituality and Health


1.     Poster Presentations from the Hawaii Conference

The poster session at the ACPE's national conference in Honolulu, HI, October 25-29, 2005, included three research presentations by Gordon Hilsman, Toya Russell, and Steve Poole. Material from each of their posters is linked here. Network members are encouraged to consider offering posters at upcoming regional and national ACPE conferences.

Gordon J. Hilsman, DMin, CPE Supervisor in the Franciscan Health System of Tacoma, WA, presented an overview of research being conducted there on patients' needs and chaplains' functions. The project revolves around 21 specific categories of patients' needs (plus a 22nd category for "other") --see the PDF of Spiritual Needs in Patient Words for a good illustration of the categories. Extensive data were collected on how these needs paired with chaplains' functions, and how many of these functions were performed by individual chaplains in certain areas of the hospital. This information has been further combined with data from chaplain focus groups on the identification of observable phenomena that may indicate successful outcomes according to the various functions--and these outcomes in turn suggest foci for future study of pastoral care interventions. A summary table [PDF] of Spiritual Patient Needs, Chaplain Functions, and Outcomes for Study shows the connections that have been made so far in the project. Rev. Dr. Hilsman welcomes feedback and would like to hear from other CPE supervisors or chaplaincy department directors pursuing similar investigations. Contact: Gordon J. Hilsman, D.Min., at St. Joseph Medical Center, PO Box 2197, Tacoma WA, 98401, or e-mail, or call 253-426-6735.

Toya V. Russell, PhD, MSPH, Research Assistant Professor and Associate Director, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Family and Community Medicine, Division of Research, presented findings [available as a PDF of a PowerPoint presentation] from her study, Exploring Spirituality and Stress Reduction Needs among Adults Living with HIV/AIDS. Note especially that after diagnosis, "almost all [participants] reported having a strong, deeper relationship 'with a higher power' Ö[and] most had not disclosed HIV status to spiritual leaders for fear of discrimination." Moreover, "Participant practices shifted from routine religious behaviors to strong spiritual beliefs after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS."

Steve Poole, Chaplain Fellow, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA, presented on Developing Spiritual Assessment Tools for Healthcare Professionals. [The PDF available here is of the entire poster, which is best read by using the zoom function of Acrobat Reader or of your browser to view one section at a time.] Chaplain Poole has developed a four-item interdisciplinary tool--printed on a pocket-sized card--that may be "non-threatening to both care givers and care receivers, yet still allow for a significant dialogue to take place." The card appears at the lower right corner of the poster. The four items of the tool are (for those who have difficulty viewing the poster on line):

  1. Very often, people have values, resources or beliefs that are helpful to be aware of as a part of their treatment or healthcare plan. I am curious to know if there are any customs, resources or traditions that you would like us to know about. I also wanted you to be aware that we do have spiritual care services available and that we can contact a chaplain at any time to meet with you or to help you get in touch with other resources that might be helpful in your healing process.
  2. I wonder if you could tell me briefly about some of your sources of strength and support when you experience illness or stress
  3. Some people find that their religion or spirituality can be a source of strength during an illness or hospital stay. There might be some spiritual or personal resources that I could help you access.
  4. If you think of ways we can be supportive, or would like us to contact our Spiritual Care Team, please donít hesitate to make that request.
Chaplain Pool may be contacted at: Harborview Medical Center, Department of Spiritual Care, 325 Ninth Ave., Box 359786, Seattle, WA, 98104-2499 or by e-mail at


2.     Update on the "Structured Descriptions" Project, with a Draft of a Student Manual

The project to collect structured descriptions of pastoral interactions that may lead to the development of best practices in pastoral care continues to develop [--see "Responding to John Gleason's Challenge," in the Fall 2005 Newsletter], and Henry Heffernan is now developing a "starter kit" for supervisors incorporating the project into their CPE curricula. One element of this set of introductory materials would be a "CPE Studentís Manual for an Ideal Intervention Paper: A Structured Description of a Patient Visit," a draft of which is now available for review. The manual is a practical explanation and guide to the project.

As part of the pilot phase, John Gleason is currently including an "Ideal Intervention Paper" in the Spring Extended CPE Unit at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, IN. A verbatim record of pastoral care already presented to peers and the supervisor will be rewritten to incorporate their feedback toward a "best way." Papers will be presented in the peer group and then submitted to the ACPE Research Network for inclusion in a database for comparative analysis and, eventually, identification of "best practices."

Chaplain Heffernan is in dialogue with several other supervisors who have expressed interest in the project. For more information on the project and how it may be integrated easily into a CPE curriculum (without adding significantly to the demands on students or supervisors), or to offer feedback on the Student Manual, contact Henry Heffernan at


3.     Study of Oregon Hospice Chaplains and Physician-Assisted Suicide

The study, "Oregon Hospice Chaplains' Experiences with Patients Requesting Physician-Assisted Suicide," published in the December 2005 issue of The Journal of Palliative Medicine [vol. 8, no. 6, pp. 1160-1166], indicates divided views on physician-assisted suicide, which is legal under Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Of the 77 hospice chaplains who were identified as affiliated with Oregon's 50 hospices, 50 chaplains returned mailed surveys, with 42% of participants indicating that they opposed the ODDA, and 40% indicating that they supported it. Also:

Over half of respondents had, in the previous 3 years, worked with a patient who had made an explicit request for assisted suicide. Conversation with patients around PAS focused on the role of faith and spirituality in this decision, reasons for wanting hastened death, and family concerns or reactions to PAS. Chaplains did not feel that they had a strong influence on the patient's decisions about PAS (mean score of 4 on a 0-10 scale), though three chaplains reported a patient who withdrew their request for PAS because of the chaplain's involvement. [--from the published Abstract of the article]
The research was conducted through the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center by Bryant Carlson (MDiv), Nicole Simopolous (MDiv), Elizabeth R. Goy (PhD), Ann Jackson (MBA), and Linda Ganzini (MD, MPH).


4.     Web Finds: Accessing the General Social Survey Data

The October 2005 and January 2006 Articles-of-the-Month pages noted the use of General Social Survey (GSS) data, especially the data from the 1998 survey. This is data from a random sample of 1,445 adults in the US, and while the information is now becoming a bit dated, it is still quite valuable since religious views held by the society as a whole do not tend to change rapidly. Chaplains may find this data interesting by itself, but researchers can use the GSS to understand the general social context of particular religious beliefs.

Among the over 200 items indexed are questions concerning: belief in God, the Devil, heaven, hell, life after death, and religious miracles; how people consider themselves religious or spiritual; coping in terms of feelings of abandonment, life as part of a larger force, not relying on God, sensing punishment from God, and gaining strength from God; the importance of the Bible in decision-making; the place of religious doubt; sense of faith; feelings of anger at God; attitudes of forgiveness; understandings of free will versus determinism; opinions about images of God; ways of dealing with moral dilemmas; spiritual experiences in daily life; and specific practices of religion: such as frequency of prayer or meditation, religious service attendance, and expression of religion through media.

Perhaps the best means of access to this data is through the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago: go to, and under Browse Variables look for the Subject Index for Religion.

Other means of access to the GSS data--and some more recent than 1998--include the Survey Documentation and Analysis Archive page of the University of California at Berkeley (see, and the Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive administered by Princeton University (see


5.     Two Special Journal Issues Focusing on Spirituality and Health

This editor continues to note the appearance of specials issues of health care journals focusing on spirituality. Such theme issues show that a health care journal understands spirituality as a "hot topic" for their professional audience. In the past couple of months two more journals joined the trend: Issues in Mental Health Nursing and Gynecologic Oncology. In the latter case, the issue was a supplement on "The 4th International Conference on Cervical Cancer with a Day of Spiritual, Psychological, Complementary, and Alternative Treatment of Cancer and Pain," held in Houston, TX, on May 19-22, 2005.

From Issues in Mental Health Nursing 27, no. 2 (February 2006):

Coleman, C. (Guest Editor), "Spirituality: An Ongoing Search for Meaning: Implications for Mental and Physical Health," pp. 113-115.

Neff , S., "Recapturing the Essence of Spirituality: A Letter to the Guest Editor," pp. 117-123.

Phillips, K., et al., "Spiritual Well-Being, Sleep Disturbance, and Mental and Physical Health Status in HIV-Infected Individuals," pp. 125-139.

Kamm-Steigelman, L., et al., "Religion, Relationships and Mental Health in Midlife Women Following Acute Myocardial Infarction," pp. 141-159.

Wong, Y., et al., "A Systematic Review of Recent Research on Adolescent Religiosity/Spirituality and Mental Health," pp. 161-183.

Dalmida, S., "Spirituality, Mental Health, Physical Health, and Health-Related Quality of Life Among Women with HIV/AIDS: Integrating Spirituality into Mental Health Care," pp. 185-198.

Smith, L., et al., "Religious Activities and Health Outcomes: The College Bound Sisters Program," pp. 199-212.

Speraw, S., "Spiritual Experiences of Parents and Caregivers Who have Children with Disabilities or Special Needs," pp. 213-230.

From Gynecologic Oncology 99, no. 3, supplement 1 (December 2005):

McCain, N. L., "Psychoneuroimmunology, Spirituality, and Cancer," p. S121.

Canada, A. L., Parker, P. A., Basen-Engquist, K., de Moor, J. S., Ramondetta, L. M. and Cohen, L., "Active Coping Mediates the Association Between Religion/Spirituality and Functional Well-Being in Ovarian Cancer," p. S125.

Miller, B., "Spiritual Journey During and After Cancer Treatment," pp. S129-S130.

Levine, E. G., "The Relationship Between Physical Factors, Coping, and Spirituality in Cancer Patients," pp. S133-S134.

Kappeli, S., "Religious Dimensions of Suffering from and Coping with Cancer: A Comparative Study of Jewish and Christian Patients," pp. S135-S136.

Lutgendorf, S. K., "Stress, Spirituality, and Cytokines in Aging and Cancer," pp. S139-S140.

Holt, C. L. and Klem, P. R., "As You Go, Spread the Word: Spiritually Based Breast Cancer Education for African American Women," pp. S141-S142.


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