Advance Care Planning by Chaplains in Physician Practices

The Problem:

Estimates indicate that less than 30% of the population has an advance directive, such as a healthcare power of attorney or living will, which guides decisions about healthcare if a person is unable to make their wishes known.

The Goal:

AnMed Health Chaplaincy Program wanted to innovate their role in end-of-life conversations by training chaplains and engaging them more broadly with patients beyond palliative care.

Method & Implementation:

AnMed Health made the decision to have all chaplains achieve Respecting Choices®-trained status to have advance care planning conversations with patients and to send them into physician offices to engage patients earlier in the care.

“Because we represent a spiritual framework, patients seem to be more open to having these conversations,” said Mike Johnston, Director of Spiritual Care at AnMed Health. In the hands of physicians and nurses, such conversations tend to be reactive, rather than proactive, conversations. “The transition from doing it in the hospital to doing it in the patient’s primary care office has really been beneficial, to both the patient family and the care team. It is so much easier having the discussions when the patients and families are not in crisis,” he says.

Results:

AnMed is already seeing initial progress in saving patients and families from making fraught choices in times of health crisis and plans to continue to expand their Advance Care Planning initiative by offering Respecting Choices® to others in the community. 

For more information about this story or to tell us about your own best practices, email us at stories@scha.org.

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