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Health Services Research & Development

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2012 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

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2012 National Meeting

3090 — Incorporating Chaplains into Patient-Aligned Care Teams

Bauer ED, Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Hines, IL; Hogan TPSmith BS, and Weaver FM, Center for Management of Complex Chronic Care, Hines, IL; Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University, Chicago, IL;

The Patient-Aligned Care Team is a patient-centered model of care for providing holistic health to Veterans. Holistic health connotes caring for a patient’s mind, body, and spirit. Little is known about the role of chaplain services within the VA, as well as the importance of spiritual care. This study was designed to: (1) describe the purpose and benefits of chaplain services, (2) understand the significance of spiritual care within the VA, and (3) describe barriers to expanding chaplain services to innovative new programs within the VA, such as Patient-Aligned Care Teams (PACT).

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with two groups of participants – chaplains (N = 15) and PACT (N = 15) members from two Midwest VA hospitals. All interviews were audio-recorded and subsequently transcribed. Data analysis is proceeding through constant comparative techniques to identify key themes grounded in and representative of the data.

Participants included physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, administrative staff, and chaplains. Chaplains facilitate patient-provider communication; provide support for family members of patients; promote treatment adherence; provide marriage counseling; serve as a safe space for Veterans; and guide patients through spiritual matters related to guilt, life-purpose/meaning, anxiety, and forgiveness, to name a few. Spiritual care is believed to be important for patient-care; however, the current system of care does not support or provide access to spiritual care in the outpatient clinic. Lack of knowledge about chaplain services, absence of chaplains in outpatient care, small number of chaplains on staff, and limited understanding of spirituality and religion among hospital staff are some barriers to incorporating chaplains into PACT.

Chaplains play an important role in patient-care; however, they do not have a presence in the outpatient clinic. Incorporating chaplain service into PACTs is one way of addressing this need.

VA is committed to providing patient-centered care and PACTs are evidence of this. Increasing chaplains’ access to patients may increase patients’ access to care, improving patient satisfaction and the quality of life for Veterans and their loved ones.

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