Understanding the role of chaplains in supporting patients and healthcare staff

Anthony Butler*, Kathleen Duffy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIM: To investigate attitudes towards chaplaincy in NHS Scotland, including the role of the chaplain in supporting healthcare staff.

METHOD: This was a qualitative study that involved semi-structured interviews with four chaplains working throughout NHS Scotland. The research transcripts were analysed, and themes were identified and examined.

FINDINGS: Two main themes were identified from the interviews: understanding the role of the chaplain; and understanding the future role of the chaplain. The sub-themes identified were: healthcare staff members' perceptions; chaplains' perceptions; generic chaplaincy services; and becoming an allied healthcare profession.

CONCLUSION: The findings of this study suggest that chaplains are increasingly providing support to healthcare staff, alongside their role in providing support to patients. The researchers also identified that chaplains in Scotland are adopting an increasingly educational role and that, in the future, they may adopt reflective practice programmes to assist them in managing increased requests for chaplaincy support from healthcare staff. It was also acknowledged that chaplaincy services may also be required to become an allied healthcare profession in the future, which may require chaplains to provide an increasingly generic and less religious service.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalNursing Standard
Issue number11
Early online date10 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Care
  • Chaplains
  • Compassion
  • Dignity
  • Nurses' wellbeing
  • Patient experience
  • Patients
  • Professional
  • Professional issues
  • Role development
  • Spirituality


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