During my hospital stay after life-threatening surgery for stage IV oral cancer, I had questions about dying and death related to my faith. I would not broach the topic with my parents as my illness alone was almost too much to bare. Anyone else I spoke to would probably respond with, ‘Come on, don’t think that way.’ The perfect person to address my concerns would be a chaplain.

One day, the chaplain stopped by and introduced himself by name and title.  He stood at the doorway and asked me how I was doing. That question rubs me the wrong way. If you are in a hospital, the answer is obvious. I answered politely. Then he asked if I would like him to pray for me or do anything else for me? The ruminating questions about death practices just didn’t want to air themselves out  just yet.

There was no attempt to develop a relationship. When I asked how long he had been a chaplain, the answer was brief. Perhaps, he was under a time constraint. I’m the one who is sick with limited energy. It is a chaplain’s job to create a rapport in which speaking openly is comfortable. This chaplain fell short and as a result, the planner in me was worse off than before. In addition to the unanswered questions, I was frustrated!

This interaction motivated the Storyteller in me to help. With a limited amount of time, what would be the most effective way to quickly and openly communicate with a new patient, a complete stranger? Here is a tool to promote dialogue with new patients:

Start with an introduction and include a personal statement:
  • What you love about chaplaincy
  • How you got into chaplaincy
  • How you believe you are most helpful to patients.

Then, articulate what subjects you feel qualified and comfortable to discuss.

If you were a patient, and the chaplain put this printed paper in your hand, would you feel comfortable opening up? Is there another topic you would like to see added or removed?

If you want to print the image above to use at your hospital or with a chaplain in your life, email me for the PDF.

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