Then I spoke to my chaplain supervisor. He encouraged my studies and liked my go-getter attitude. When we reviewed my verbatim--a record of an exchange between patient and volunteer chaplain--he said that I was on the right track and learning quickly. Yay!
And then last night, I attended a Lay Ministry training, with my fellow UU lay ministers (kinda like amateur community chaplains for our congregation.) We discussed not trying to "fix it," being vs. doing, empathic listening, non-anxious presence, and open-ended questions. I was familiar with all of these (from my online course and experience) but picked up some new strategies, specifically a great list of open-ended questions. I sometimes flounder when talking to patients in how to get them to go deeper and be more reflective. I rush through the silence, trying to get to the right question to unlock that next level. Not exactly the best practice. I liked these questions and look forward to using them.
- What's helping you get through this (really lousy situation)?
- What do you think keeps you from fixing the situation?
- What's been the hardest part for you?
- What's helped you through times like this in the past?
- How would your parents/grandparents have helped a situation like this--rituals, prayers, etc.?
- What are you hoping for? [This one was my addition and is one of my favorites.]
- Is there anything you would find comforting right now? What brings you comfort? What strengthens you?
- Is there anything from a spiritual perspective that helps--music, poetry, meditation?
- How is your family handling this?
- Are there any relationships that need healing?
- What is a moment of awe that you remember? What puts a smile on your face as you reflect?
- What gives your life meaning now? What is meaningful to you?
- Are there any symbols that are sacred/important to you right now?
- What's on your mind/agenda today?
- What are your biggest concerns?
- Have there been any changes since the last time we met? What has changed for you?
- Where do you turn for help? Do you turn to yourself for help?
- How is your spirit today? [I really liked this one and can see using it instead of "How are you today?" which always seems to elicit something physical.]
- Is God/the sacred/the holy part of your life or spiritual practice? [Our minister says she often prefaces this with "This is something I ask everyone." This is a great way to introduce the spiritual, akin to my question, "Do you have a faith community?"]
- Where is God/the sacred/the holy in all of this?
- Are you connected to something bigger?
I just got a call that my longtime hospice patient had a fall and broke her leg. I'll see her Tuesday, though, because she can't really verbalize, I won't be using those questions. We've been together for more than 18 months. And falls often hasten the end . . . .