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Hospital Chaplains Don’t Improve Healing

It has long been presumed that the presence of priests, ministers, and other religious leaders, in hospitals is medically important because these chaplains bring comfort to patients, which then has been supposed to translate into superior medical outcomes for the patients. A study of the records of hospitals in England, however, has uncovered evidence that spending money on hospital chaplains isn’t a medically helpful practice.

The study compared the amount of money that hospitals under the England’s National Health Service spent on chaplains to the degree of achievement by those hospitals of a range of nationally-recognized benchmarks of medical success.

There was no correlation between amount spent on chaplains and medical success in hospitals.

Even for mental health services, the study found that “there is no evidence that an increased proportion of income spent on chaplaincy results in improvements in quality.”

Nonetheless, the study found that the rate of spending on hospital chaplains is increasing faster than the rate of inflation.

It may be argued that some fervently religious patients have lower stress when visited by chaplains. If that’s the case, though, in order for the statistics of this study to be accurate, there would have to be a corresponding negative impact of chaplains on other patients.

If some patients want to have priests, rabbis or monks visit them in the hospital, why does a hospital-employed chaplain have to do the job? Why aren’t the religious leaders from patients’ own churches and temples in attendance? Are they too busy praying, perhaps?

11 comments to Hospital Chaplains Don’t Improve Healing

  • Jacob

    Agreed. The patient should be visited by someone from their home church.

    I think the problem though is that many people dont have a church. They dont need one or care about one. When something bad happens and they find themselves in the hospital the persepective changes and the hospital chaplain is there to help them. The chaplain is also there to help grieving family after the unexpected loss of a loved one. For the extreme fees that the hospital charges this doesnt seem to be an unfair service to provide. We recently had a baby and the bill was over $22,000.

    • Jacob, “the hospital chaplain is there to help them”, you say, but has it occurred to you that people who don’t go to church likely don’t want to have a priest hovering over them at a difficult time, giving what the priest thinks of as “help”? This study shows that chaplains’ supposed “help” isn’t actually helpful.

      What’s stopping someone who has a hospital conversion to Christianity from picking up a phone book – which they have in hospitals, and calling a church and asking to be visited by a priestly figure? Nothing.

      But, do you have any evidence that people who get sick convert to religious belief more than they decide to abandon religious belief? Facts matter – if you care about reality.

      • Jacob

        Why would a chaplain hover over them when they dont want it? Seems like they would be able to say ‘no thanks’. I dont think chaplain care is a required service. Its optional. Sometimes help isnt physical either. How do you judge emotional comfort in a dying person? The person still died, does that mean the chaplain did nothing? I think not.

        Whats to stop a person from picking up the phone, wading though hundreds of listings, calling a church (or other instituation), getting to the person they need to talk to, setting an appointment, etc? I think the fact thay they are in the hospital shows that they are probably not going to be able to do such a thing. Should we keep a phone book by every bed in the ER so that while a person is bleeding out they can thumb through the yellow pages? What kind of suggestion is that?

        As far as facts and figures, you wrote on the subject and dont have any. You show that it doesnt “help” but you dont show that people do not use the service and so not want the service. People are using it and gaining from it.

      • Jacob

        I was thinking about this last night.

        This may not be the same where you are, but in my area all (yes all) hospitals are run by a religous organization.

        • If that were true, Jacob, it would be a problem. But, it isn’t true.

          “North Kansas City Hospital is a municipal, public hospital.”

          Truman Medical Center, which has two hospitals in Kansas City, are public hospitals, not religious.

          Liberty Hospital, 20 minutes north of Kansas City, Missouri, “is a public, non-profit hospital, created for the benefit of its community as a political subdivision district hospital under Chapter 206 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.”

          Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital, in Kansas City, Missouri, is a corporate-run hospital.

          University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, the other side of the river from you, is state-run.

          The Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City is not run by a religious organization.

          The Select Medical Corporation runs 5 outpatient centers within 30 miles of downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

          Where I live, the hospitals are either public or corporate. There are no religious hospitals here.

  • Jacob

    Here’s something else that doesn’t help: dumping the wastewater from fracking into rivers and streams contaminating our drinking water with radioactive waste WHILE THE EPA LOOKS ON.

    http://climateprogress.org/2011/02/27/natural-gas-fracking-dangers-environment-health/#more-43529

  • Tom

    Hey, how did your name get on my response? And it’s comforting that i’m THAT predictable to you by now.

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