Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Published at PlainViews

I have a new piece that has appeared in PlainViews, the online journal for chaplains. The subject will be familiar to my regular readers: being a research-informed chaplain. You can read it here.

If you're a chaplain who stops here and you haven't yet looked at PlainViews, I encourage you to spend some time reading there. PlainViews had information and opinions from and for chaplains on a wide variety of topics. You can read the current edition, certainly; but also scroll down to the bottom of the page and check out the Archives. There are many things there worth reading, and most will take only a few minutes.

If you're looking here having linked from PlainViews, welcome. If you'll look to the left column under "Labels," you'll see categories I've used to sort my posts. That can help you sort through and focus on topics you're interested in. Stay a while, read some, and leave me a comment.


Anonymous said...

Frank may shoot me for taking his blog for a few minutes. I have always been a fan of Myron Leiberman who wrote "Education as a Profession." The book deals primarily with what is a profession.Chaplain's should be a profession. Standards of entry, control of entry, are essential for the welfare of the Chaplains, to be sure, but also for those receiving the service. It guarantees a higher quality of service. Jack

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Very well put, Marshall.

I might also add that it might be useful to learn a little about the concept of "evidence based medicine" (for better or worse.)

The problem, of course, is in your companion medical fields, most research on spirituality will be at best, a "level 3". The double blind placebo study or meta-analysis is "level 1." There is already becoming a mistaken view that "Level 1 is great and level 3 is just so-so"...yet in some instances level 3 is as good as it gets b/c some things cannot be analyzed in this way.

The other problem is an old saw I tell med students--"N = 1000 doesn't mean squat when N=1 and the one is YOUR patient."

So my gut thought is, "Yes, you're right--proceed, but with care." Unfortunately that is level 5 evidence!

Marshall said...

Jack, many of us would say that chaplaincy is a profession. We argue that there is a discrete area of function and body of knowledge. The difficulty, affecting issues around both standards of entry and control of entry, is determining just whom we're to be discrete from. We try to argue distinction both from other professions in health care, and from other ministry specialities in our faith communities.

You can get a sense from PlainViews that we're trying to do this; and a committee from a number of chaplain cognate groups is proposing common standards of practice. Wendy Cadge, Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandeis is interested in this development process as a social phenomenon. But, since the primary agents for control of entry - the states - don't want to get into a fight as to what is and isn't a religious group, much less who is and isn't a religious leader, we have a somewhat harder road to cut. (Although if you'll look at the Archives page at PlainViews, you'll see that a colleague has recently advocated for licensure.) It doesn't help that we as chaplains don't have a consensus as to whether we're advanced practice clergy functioning in health care (my own preferred understanding) or ancillary health care providers addressing issues of spiritual health. Those aren't really mutually exclusive; but you wouldn't get that sense from our discussions.

To have a sense of why I speak of chaplains as "advanced practice clergy, you can read something I wrote for PlainViews three years ago. To get a sense of the responses, look at my series on volunteers in chaplaincy (check out the Labels to the left).

Marshall said...

Ah, Kirk, too true! I was involved in the study of intecessory prayer done in our hospital (published in the Archives of Internal Medicine: Harris, et al, 1999), and we tried to have a randomized, double-blind study. We realized we couldn't eliminate "background:" that is, we couldn't control for prayers said by the patient, or by others for the patient, independent of our study. Some things just aren't amenable, as you say.

By the way, Wendy Cadge has published "Saying Your Prayers, Constructing Your
Religions: Medical Studies of
Intercessory Prayer" in the Journal of Religion this year. It's a good reflection on such studies, not only for their results or limitations, but for the contexts in which they occurred.