The theme has been, more and more using tools that are new and unfamiliar to most of us in the field: research, measuring, and standards. Now, those of you who read here regularly will know that those concepts aren’t new or unfamiliar to me. I’m a great believer in both. That said, an ongoing theme in both responses to presentations and in thoughts overheard in passing, is “How do we do this?” The “this” may be as small as a specific end, say, addressing compassion fatigue of staff; or as large as addressing the new Standards of Practice that have been put forward by APC’s Commission on Quality.
I would encourage folks to go to the APC web site once the conference is over and look at the various offering available on CD and DVD. I’m going to buy several myself, even thought I’ve been present for most of them. However, if you are a chaplain and you wanted to get just one, I would download “The Case of for Standards of Practice: Do Professional Chaplains Practice What They Preach?” (Go here and scroll down for a description.) The named presenters are George Handzo and Paul Derrickson, both speaking and serving as a panel responding to one another and questions from the audience. There are also presentations from leaders in APC discussing the history and processes of developing the Standards of Practice. I think we need to listen to the various voices in the presentation, perhaps reflecting on them one at a time to see how we react. We need to do this in context of reading and reflecting on the Standards of Practice.
I am not certain myself about these new Standards. Note that I’m not uncertain about having Standards of Practice. I’m uncertain about these Standards. How will we live with, how will we manifest these Standards?
Actually, the speakers make clear in this conversation that there is something of an “adoption” process for us as chaplains. There will be opportunities for feedback through the APC website and through workshops at future APC Conferences that can contribute to refinement. In addition, the Quality Commission has committed to a complete review of the Standards ever two years. With that promise, it’s clear to me that we’re not confronted with a new set of prescriptive rules that we called to meet, but with a set of descriptive parameters to which we aspire and within which we model our work globally.
That said, I’m alert to how other professions are affected by the Standards of Practice. I have been in meetings considering disciplinary action because a given patient interaction didn’t meet “standard of care.” That “standard” may be shaped by the standards of practice and the codes of ethics of a professional organization, and/or by state regulations. We may – arguably, we will – find ourselves in cases of disciplining chaplains for not meeting “standards of care.” In fact that’s why I was in one of those meetings. As we adopt references and standards, we will certainly be held to them, at times in ways we will find uncomfortable.
Nonetheless, this is an important step in our profession, and this presentation is an important beginning to the conversation. Give a day or two, and look up the recordings available. I think this will be on well worth having.