A Jewish Approach to Pastoral Care
My approach to Pastoral Care is based my PhD thesis, which was: "A critical examination of patient-centred spiritual care from a Jewish perspective, and its implications for healthcare chaplaincy and spiritual care". I reflected on on the capacities needed for chaplains and lay visitors to engage in patient spiritual care in a paradigm of patient centred care, and demonstrated how my perspective of Jewish Theology and practice can engage in patient spiritual care. This was based on the following premises:
That spirituality is part of the human condition
That the human condition is fallible especially when facing existential challenges
That the human condition is not boundless, including the issues of autonomy, person-centred care, self-empowerment and self-determination, as much as we try to push the boundaries
The human condition is complex, and is full of ambiguities, and has possibly become more complex as the bounds of possibilities and influences have been extended. Yet a spiritual presence may simply be a matter of a hug.
Two questions were at the heart of my research:
a) Whether spiritual care is a core part of patient care, or dependent on patient choice.
b) How healthcare chaplaincy more particularly faith chaplains and spiritual carers can continue to provide patient spiritual care in a negotiated mutual pastoral encounter with patients, and that would meet the terms of the Act?
I felt there was a need to examine these questions together with the trends of individualisation and secularisations, and in light of the paradigm of patient-centred care, which has been promoted since the NHS Plan of 2000 (1), and the subsequent Plan, to argue that spiritual care should still be a part of patient care.
Taking into account my own Jewish background I focused on Jewish attitudes to pastoral care, and the outcomes of my work included:
Having regard for the other
Creating a spiritual presence
Negotiating a mutual encounter and dialogue as symbolised by the Jewish theological teaching to sit along side the patient
Facilitating and empowering the patient to recognise their own innate spiritual strengths and a dynamic spiritual process
Understanding that religious doctrines cannot be imposed on patients
These outcomes, while pertinent for providing patient spiritual care, can also be applicable for supporting people in different scenarios.