Chief Spiritual Officers: Caring for the human spirit with integrity, grace and safety

12 March 2021

by Dina-Perla Portnaar

Spiritual care delivery has proven beneficial to patients, families and front-line healthcare providers, especially in times of COVID-19. As the negative stressors continue to rise, the need for a compassionate and caring presence becomes all the more apparent. However, there is a lack of Chaplaincy representation at the highest organisational levels, which entails many risks. This is a global issue – in fact, in all sorts of institutions. For example, if we would do a search on ‘Chief Spiritual Officer’ via LinkedIn, not a whole lot of results would show up. Chief Spiritual Officers: advocating for spiritual care leadership’ was the central theme of the digital round table / panel discussion on 25th February 2021. In other words, caring for the human spirit with integrity, grace and safety. We examined how best to define the Chief Spiritual Officer, the qualifications for assuming a spiritual leadership role and how this impacts advocating for spiritual care delivery in hospice and in other organisational structures.

There were many takeaways from this discussion, including ways for the Chief Spiritual Officer to advocate for hospice chaplains and the reasons why spiritual care leadership is vitally important.

Important key words were risk, integrity, personal growth, leading by example, connection, communication, seeing the other, IQ, EQ and SQ, waking up versus growing up, stakeholder management, being each other’s student and teachers, no silo’s, no dogma’s or religion but universal principles from psychology, spirituality and philosophy, doing the right thing and doing what is necessary, interacting gracefully, body building versus mind building, difference in comparison to the Chief Happiness Officer or Chief Wellness Officer, data and storytelling to make a case instead of jumping up and down to advocate for the Chief Spiritual Officer and much more.

The speakers that took part in this panel were Chaplain Ken Thomas, Rev Charles Brewer and myself. Truly one of the best experiences of my professional life and time well spent.

Watch the video recording of the panel discussion via this link.

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