Health care chaplains have embraced the importance of evidence-based practice but lack training to realize it. This prevents them from using research to guide the spiritual care they provide. It also prevents them, as the front-line workers around religion and spirituality in health care, from engaging in research-informed conversations with colleagues, patients and families. In health care environments where understandings of the relationship between religion, spirituality and health are often controversial, chaplains are not empirically informed and their roles are at risk as jobs are cut back or eliminated.
We propose a three-part training plan to advance knowledge about religion and health in health care organizations and among the public. We focus on research literacy for chaplains, the ability to understand and discuss research on religion, spirituality and health and apply it to chaplaincy practice. We:
• Propose a fellowship program that will provide 16 future chaplaincy leaders training in research by completing a two-year research-focused MS or MPH degree in Epidemiology, Statistics or Public Health. Fellows will also complete a for-credit online course, “Understanding Research on Religion, Spirituality and Health” and receive mentoring.
• Propose a grant program, “Integrating Research Literacy into Chaplaincy CPE Residency Programs” that will incentivize 70 CPE Programs to make research literacy part of their curriculum. Awardees whose students demonstrate a particular degree of research knowledge will receive bonus grants.
• Will offer a non-credit online course “Religion, Spirituality and Health: An Introduction to Research” to chaplains that focuses on basic research knowledge, utilizing matching funds from the professional chaplaincy organizations.
These initiatives will create at least 800 research-literate chaplains strengthening understandings of religion, spirituality and health and transforming chaplaincy as a profession.