Spiritual Care in Common Terms

How Chaplains Can Effectively Describe the Spiritual Needs of Patients in Medical Records

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Gordon J. Hisman
  • Philadelphia, PA: 
    Jessica Kingsley Publishing, Ltd.
    , December
     288 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Spiritual Care in Common Terms delivers practical help for the professional spiritual caregiver who wants to contribute information to the medical record in a way that effectively communicates and contributes to the interdisciplinary team (IDT). Hilsman's work advances the competencies of spiritual caregivers by offering practical examples of best practices addressing the content, format, and process of writing notes in the medical record. Beginning with examples from patients, he addresses the diverse topics which illustrate the common need for spiritual care.

This book offers a general overview of the goals of spiritual care from a humanistic perspective. As a staff chaplain in this field, I find the book to be based on sound scholarship in the field. While not a manual of what to say in particular situations, it articulates sound principles that point to multiple examples of how to improve the work of spiritual care. I find Hilsman’s presentation of twenty-two spiritual needs helpful as a non-exhaustive review of the field. In each of these areas of need, he helps the reader arrive at appropriate goals of spiritual care, expressed in language the entire IDT can understand.

Especially helpful is the section on developing a concise written format for chart notes.

Included are several diverse cases, each with an introduction, an analysis, and an existing chart note. These are followed by insightful suggestions that improve written chart notes in the medical record. The book also covers the outcomes that can be expected when communication with the IDT provides the information that various disciplines find valuable for the staff responsible for spiritual care.

Applying insights found in this book will advance the work of spiritual caregivers as competent and contributing members of the IDT. Reading this book prompted me to reflect on how I can improve my skills in this important work. This is one of the best books I have read on this important subject.

About the Reviewer(s): 

David L. Brinker is is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and chaplain for the Normandie River retirement community.

Date of Review: 
October 18, 2017
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Gordon J. Hilsman, D. Min. has over 40 years' experience as a clinical pastoral educator and chaplain in hospital, addictions, mental health and hospice settings. He has previously served as a Catholic parish priest and hospital chaplain. He lives in Washington, DC.

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