The role of the chaplain has evolved significantly from historical models. Today’s chaplain often is armed with graduate degrees, units of Clinical Pastoral Education and perhaps even national certifications and related advanced degrees. Chaplains may even be integrated into hospital interdisciplinary clinical treatment teams. Such is the case for chaplains working at the West Palm Beach Medical Center. Chaplains may also be involved in committees that relate to our core competencies and activities. Examples include serving on committees such as palliative care, bioethics and patient relations.

This model shifts the emphasis to some degree from simply serving in a sacramental role to that of clinical chaplaincy. Clinical chaplains may also be involved in pastoral counseling depending on their skills and background thus contributing further to the well being of patients from the standpoint of a holistic framework. This is certainly true in the area of recovery from chemical and alcohol dependency.

At the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, we are blessed to have a skilled group of chaplains of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant traditions who are able to screen patients for possible faith specific needs that may arise upon their request. Given that we are entering into the holiday season, a chaplain often plays an important role in helping patients to find comfort and solace in their spiritual and religious traditions.

Chaplains at the VA Medical Center are available twenty-four hours a day, 365 days per year to handle any emergency. Chaplains are available for both inpatients and outpatients for religious, spiritual or moral concerns. Spiritual care and ministry are provided to immediate family members as well. We work with people of all faiths and those who do not align themselves with any faith group. Each chaplain is sensitive to the religious needs of a broad spectrum of religious denominations and faiths.

All VA Medical Centers are guided by the leadership of the National Chaplain Center in order to achieve excellence in meeting the spiritual needs of veterans receiving health care. Their mission includes field services, educational programming, spiritual care, accreditation standards, and employment services to mention a few.

Our goal is that patients have the opportunity to practice his or her faith to the greatest extent possible, including worship services, ceremonies and observances, as well as dietary needs and religious literature. Other goals include protecting patients against unwanted religious solicitations and safeguarding privacy rights.

The greatest asset that a chaplain possesses is his or her ability to comfort a patient in times of extreme difficulty and stress. This is especially true during the holiday season when so many patients feel a sense of loneliness or even despair.