A prayer before dying
How well trained are clergy in care of the dying patient and bereavement support?
Although comparatively few people have regular contact with a church or spiritual leader, during times of terminal illness or bereavement, clergy are expected to be available and able to provide support. This study was carried out to determine the perceptions of clergy on the training they had received in supporting the dying patient and the bereaved. A sample of clergy working in the diocese of Sheffield was sent a questionnaire to assess what skills and knowledge clergy believed they had in this area, together with areas where they would wish for further training. The questionnaire was developed with input from hospital, hospice, and academic chaplains, and palliative care consultants. A subsidiary questionnaire was sent to clergy training colleges to evaluate the teaching offered.
There was a trend across all denominations that those who had trained more recently were more likely to have received relevant training. Most clergy believed that they possessed adequate liturgical skills, but 13% felt they possessed none or little skill in pastoral care of the dying.
Seventy-one percent indicated that they would like further training in pastoral care of the dying and 66.3% desired training in care of the bereaved. Of the 50% of training colleges that responded, the number of hours of training on pastoral care of the dying ranged from 6 to 36 hours (median 23 hours and mean 25 hours) and only 26% believed that their training in pastoral support skills was comprehensive.
This study suggests that care of the dying and the bereaved is identified by clergy as an area in need of further training by the majority of clergy and should be part of the core curriculum within clergy training colleges and late training programs.
- [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]