Hospital Chaplain Job Description

Hospital chaplains provide spiritual guidance to medical patients and their families, as well as facility staff members, of various faiths and religious belief systems. Hospitals and similar medical facilities hire hospital chaplains to work full time as part of a team-oriented environment, but they also perform many duties independently. Hospital chaplains work on call and on rotational schedules during all shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Travel may be required for this job, as sometimes these chaplains perform religious services outside the hospital.


Hospital Chaplain Duties and Responsibilities

Specific job tasks for hospital chaplains vary based on the spiritual needs of those within the hospital and the facility’s size. However, they commonly perform these core duties:

Crisis Intervention

Hospital chaplains provide emotional and spiritual support to families, patients, and staff members in the event of death, fatal diagnosis, and other life-changing moments.

Counsel Patients and Staff

Hospital chaplains provide counseling services and spiritual guidance to everyone within the hospital. They also answer questions regarding end-of-life concerns and other spiritual issues while maintaining confidentiality regarding all consultations and counseling sessions.

Perform Rituals

Hospital chaplains conduct and assist in spiritual rituals, such as the administration of the last rites. They also pray with patients, families, and staff members, and sometimes perform these rituals outside of the hospital.

Conduct Rounds

Hospital chaplains conduct regular rounds of hospital wards where critically ill patients are treated, such as the intensive care unit.

Keep Worship Space Clean

Hospital chaplains maintain the hospital worship space. This includes performing light cleaning tasks, replacing candles, and straightening furniture.

Liaise with Religious Community

Hospital chaplains serve as a community liaison between the medical facility and local religious organizations and churches.


Hospital Chaplain Skills and Qualifications

Hospital chaplains are spiritual leaders, compassionate listeners, and counselors for people from all belief systems and walks of life during times of crisis. Hospitals look for chaplains with the following skills:

  • Spiritual knowledge – hospital chaplains use their knowledge of different faiths to perform various religious rituals, lead prayers, and answer spiritual questions
  • Communication skills – hospital chaplains need excellent verbal communication and active listening skills to talk with and effectively counsel those with spiritual needs
  • Public speaking – hospital chaplains offer prayers and conduct rituals in front of groups of people, which requires public speaking skills
  • Leadership– hospital chaplains lead prayers and religious services, which requires leadership ability
  • Interpersonal skills – because hospital chaplains provide emotional support and counseling, they need strong interpersonal skills to effectively connect with people of all ages with empathy and compassion


Hospital Chaplain Education and Training

Hospital chaplains must have a master’s degree in divinity, spirituality, or an equivalent discipline. Employers also require hospital chaplains to have previous experience working in a clinical or hospital environment. The amount of experience required varies by facility, but two to four years is common.

No on-the-job training is typically provided to hospital chaplains, though hospitals often offer a brief orientation. This orientation may consist of a tour of the facility and key staff members or may be more extensive depending on the hospital.


Hospital Chaplain Salary and Outlook

According to employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers earn a median salary of $47,980 annually. Hospital chaplains perform many of the same duties as social workers, who counsel people through difficult situations. PayScale data shows that hospital chaplains earn a median annual salary of $47,100. The BLS predicts the number of hospital chaplains will rise 16 percent through 2026, which is much faster than the average national job growth rate.

A majority of hospitals provide healthcare coverage to hospital chaplains, as well as dental insurance benefits. Hospitals may also provide employees with free cafeteria meals and gift shop discounts.


Helpful Resources

Use these resources to find prayers, job strategies, career opportunities, and education options for hospital chaplains:

Association of Professional Chaplains – find certification programs, education resources, upcoming spiritual events, and information about various spiritual publications at APC

The Hospital Chaplain’s Handbook: A Guide for Good Practice – this book explores the role of the hospital chaplain and presents various techniques for assessing patient needs, working as part of a healthcare team, and guiding others through traumatic life events

American Chaplains Association – this website provides hospital chaplains and other types of chaplains with certification program resources, a newsletter, and events information

Chaplain Prayer Book – this book written for chaplains in the healthcare industry contains prayers of four major world faiths: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism

Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association – go to this website to find training programs for chaplains, information about achieving certification, and tips for maintaining ethical and professional standards

Professional Spiritual & Pastoral Care: A Practical Clergy and Chaplain’s Handbook – this guidebook provides chaplains in the healthcare industry with strategies and tools for offering basic therapies to patients. Several past and current presidents of chaplaincy organizations contributed to the text, which marries classic techniques with modern tips for clergy, counselors, and caregivers


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