"Becoming a Spiritual Generalist" for Eldercare Staff
By Mary Martha Thiel, ACPE Certified Educator  | March 19, 2018

“Becoming a Spiritual Generalist” workshops for frontline staff at Hebrew SeniorLife were hugely successful this winter. Funded through a Macy Foundation grant to Brandeis University, with Wendy Cadge as Principal Investigator, we offered a day-long workshop to three sets of frontline staff from our eight campuses, representing diverse disciplines.

The curriculum was translated for geriatric contexts from earlier workshops offered for pediatric practitioners at Boston Children’s Hospital. https://www.transformchaplaincy.org/2017/10/03/efficacy-of-training-interprofessional-spiritual-care-generalists/. A highlight of the methodology is the use of realistic enactments, in which workshop participants play themselves and roleplay scenarios with actors, trying out new spiritual generalist skills. The final realistic enactment involves a professional chaplain modeling spiritual care at the specialist level, to give staff a better feel for what chaplains actually do, and to clarify the boundary between a generalist’s and specialist’s scope of spiritual care. 

Our colleagues came away excited about their new skills: feeling more confident in integrating a spiritual screen into their own practice, being able to identify spiritual issues presented in secular as well as religious language, and knowing how and when to team with chaplains. Many have asked for ongoing spiritual generalist consultation about their work, and Spiritual Care referrals are up significantly.

It is gratifying to use CPE teaching skills to increase our system’s attention to the spiritual issues of the elders we serve.

Rev. Mary Martha Thiel is Director of Clinical Pastoral Education at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston MA. She may be contacted at MaryMarthaThiel@hsl.harvard.edu
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