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Hospice chaplains or geriatrics chaplains are, simply, chaplains often assigned by or working with hospitals, seminaries or volunteer organisations, that specialise in providing long-term spiritual care, especially to geriatric patients and those suffering from terminal illness.
These chaplains are often assisted by largely untrained volunteers, visiting homes, hospital wards, and retirement centers, depending on the needs of their subjects. To the patient who may not see anyone unrelated to their medical condition (i.e, doctors and nurses), visits from hospice chaplains, which frequently involve prayer and simple conversation, can provide a welcome relief from routine and isolation. These visits are usually one-on-one, in person or on the phone, and generally occur weekly or more often. Because of the amount of individual contact, caretakers and patients often form lasting friendships.
Although pastoral care is common at most churches as a way for hospital-bound or homebound patients to be visited by their spiritual leaders, often these visits are short and infrequent, due to the needs of other patients, and when compared to the realities of long-term care. Hospital chaplains and their associated volunteers, who often work with a much smaller number of patients, are less constrained by the needs of caring for an entire congregation.
They are governed by no international or national body; organisation is essentially only on local levels. However, due to the lack of organisation, it is uncommon for hospice chaplains to go out into the greater community, instead working within the membership of a church, or the patient roster of a retirement community or hospital. However, Baylor University, working with local hospitals and funded partially by Maya Angelou, has established a system of interaction within the community.
In the United States, hospice chaplains are typically educated through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education and may be certified by one of the following organizations:The Association of Professional Chaplains, The National Association of Catholic Chaplains, or The National Association of Jewish Chaplains. In Canada, they may be certified by the Canadian Association for Pastoral Practice and Education. Certification typically requires a Masters of Divinity degree, faith group ordination or commissioning, faith group endorsement, and four units (1600 hours) of Clinical Pastoral Education.
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