OBJECTIVE: To evaluate patients' expectations of hospital chaplains. PATIENTS AND METHODS: From April 6, 2006, through April 25, 2006, we surveyed by mail 1500 consecutive medical and surgical patients within 3 weeks of their discharge from the hospital. The survey included questions related to demographics, duration and area of hospitalization, awareness of chaplain availability, expectations regarding chaplain visits, and reasons for wanting to see a chaplain. Measured characteristics were summarized by calculating means and SDs for continuous variables and proportions for categorical variables. Proportions were statistically compared via Fisher exact tests or Monte Carlo estimates. RESULTS: Surveys were returned by 535 of the 1500 patients to whom they were sent. Most of those who returned surveys had been hospitalized for less than 1 week (398/514 [77.4%]) and were male (265/510 [52.0%]), married (396/528 [75.0%]), 56 years or older (382/532 [71.8%]), or affiliated with either the Lutheran (177 [33.3%]) or Catholic (133 [25.0%]) churches. Most (78.9%) were aware of the availability of chaplains, and 62.3% would have appreciated chaplain visitation at least every few days. More than half (52.9%) reported that they were visited, and 86.4% reported that this visit was important to them. The primary reason selected for wanting to see a chaplain was "to be reminded of God's care and presence." Items related to ritual, prayer, and pastoral support were also highly endorsed. Some results were dependent on sex, age, religious affiliation, or duration of stay. CONCLUSION: Hospitalized patients value visitation by chaplains and appreciate both religious and supportive interventions. Opportunities for patient care, education, and research are apparent.
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