Hospice care is a place of comfort, solace, and support for individuals facing life-limiting illnesses. In this environment, the role of a chaplain extends beyond religious affiliations and denominations. A chaplain’s role is rooted in compassion, empathy, and inclusivity, welcoming individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their faith or beliefs. 

In a hospice setting, the chaplain serves as a spiritual guide and source of emotional support for patients, families, and staff. Hospice chaplains work alongside the other team members to provide comprehensive care that meets the patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. 

A chaplain’s presence is not exclusively defined by a specific religious doctrine but rather by the universal principles of love, understanding, and acceptance. Contrary to what many believe, chaplains do not exclusively serve Christian patients but honor all faiths, such as Judaism and Buddhism. They will work with the patient to dive deeper into their specific faith’s lens. 

Whether a person identifies with a particular faith, holds secular beliefs, or is uncertain about their spiritual path, the chaplain is there to offer a listening ear, words of comfort, and a reassuring presence, free from any judgment or agenda.

“For me, it is about establishing a relationship outside of religion with the person – rather than focusing exclusively on their spiritual beliefs,” said Chris Wooten, Chaplain for Hospice of Redmond. “Calm and peace are essential during such a tumultuous time, and the patient’s life matters most, so this is where I start.”

One of the fundamental aspects of the chaplain’s role in hospice care is creating a space where all individuals feel valued and respected. This means recognizing and honoring the diversity of beliefs and backgrounds within the hospice community. Hospice chaplains are trained to provide inclusive and accommodating support to all. This approach allows individuals to freely express their thoughts, fears, and hopes, knowing they will be met with understanding and without judgment.

Chaplain Chris shares that developing warm and positive moments is critical to establishing relationships with patients and their families. He doesn’t talk “at” his patients but instead listens and provides help where possible. 

“Connection and enrichment happen organically through conversation,” said Chaplain Chris. “Understanding the big picture of the meaning of their life – whether faith or otherwise – is important. I will meet and support them where they are, even if that means leaving religion or other beliefs completely out of the conversation.”

Going Above and Beyond

Chaplain Chris shared one story of a female patient who was never religious but gravitated toward having a connection with God at the end of her life. She requested Chaplain Chris baptize her. Chaplain Chris and the hospice team organized a baptism on her front lawn. While this may seem out of the norm for what Hospice of Redmond can do, it was important to the patient, so it was important to the hospice team, and they made it happen.

Chaplain Chris shared a story of a same-sex couple (one of whom was a hospice patient) who had experienced a lot of hardship with religion and found it challenging to develop and maintain a connection with God. At the end of life, connecting with God was important to the patient, so Chaplain Chris was honored to help him in that journey. 

“It is about loving the patient by caring, listening, and meeting their needs in their journey,” said Chaplain Chris. “There is no agenda. We walk through the ending with them, and I only want to see people accepted, loved, and cared for.”