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Predicting Patients' Expectations of Hospital Chaplains: A Multisite Survey


      To identify patient expectations regarding chaplain visitation, characteristics of patients who want to be visited by a chaplain, and what patients deem important when a chaplain visits.


      Three weeks after discharge, 4500 eligible medical and surgical patients from hospitals in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida were surveyed by mail to collect demographic information and expectations regarding chaplain visitation. The survey was conducted during the following time periods: Minnesota participants, April 6 until April 25, 2006; Arizona participants, October 16, 2008, until January 13, 2009; Florida participants, October 16, 2008, until January 20, 2009. Categorical variables were summarized with frequencies or percentages. Associations between responses and site were examined using χ2 tests. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess the likelihood of wanting chaplain visitation on the basis of patient demographics and perceived importance of reasons for chaplain visitation.


      About one-third of those surveyed responded from each site. Most were male, married, aged 56 years or older, and Protestant or Catholic. Of the respondents, nearly 70% reported wanting chaplain visitation, 43% were visited, and 81% indicated that visitation was important. The strongest predictor of wanting chaplain visitation was denomination vs no indicated religious affiliation (Catholic: odds ratio [OR], 8.11; 95% confidence interval [CI], 4.49-14.64; P<.001; evangelical Protestant: OR, 4.95; 95% CI, 2.74-8.91; P<.001; mainline Protestant: OR, 4.34; 95% CI, 2.58-7.29; P<.001). Being female was a weak predictor (OR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.05-2.09; P=.03), as was site. Among the reasons given by respondents for wanting chaplain visitation, the most important were that chaplains served as reminders of God's care and presence (OR, 4.37; 95% CI, 2.58-7.40; P<.001) and that they provided prayer or scripture reading (OR, 2.54; 95% CI, 1.53-4.20; P<.001).


      The results of this study suggest the importance medical and surgical patients place on being visited by a chaplain while they are hospitalized. Those who valued chaplains because they reminded them of God's care and presence and/or because they prayed or read scripture with them were more likely to desire a visit. Our results also suggest that being religiously affiliated is a very strong predictor of wanting chaplain visitation.
      CI (confidence interval), MCA (Mayo Clinic in Arizona), MCF (Mayo Clinic in Florida), MCR (Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN), OR (odds ratio)
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