The Chaplain and Social Courtesies

Chaplains have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive impact and impression upon patients and their families. To do so, it takes more than skill in spiritual support or in counseling or in providing encouragement. The Chaplain that excels in social skills and common courtesy will find his or her spiritual care greatly enhanced. I had a bit different upbringing than some as from the age of 10 my Mother educated me on manners and social skills as my Father died and could not add to my Mother’s advice. Opening doors, be they to buildings or vehicles, saying “Please” and “Thank you” were just the basics. Through my career I have learned that those basics can carry one a good way, but there are many other social courtesies to learn and apply to solidify great relationships with those we serve in hospice. The list that follows is by no means exhaustive nor given in any order of importance as they are all important.


Key Courtesy Tips for Chaplains:

Smile! It takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile.

Pause for a moment before answering the telephone. This will allow you to shift gears and focus on the caller.

Sitting down and making eye contact while talking to patients leaves a more favorable impression than standing and you are perceived to spend more time with the patient.

Eye contact should be made 40-60% of the time in conversation. Less than that suggests you’re not paying attention… more than 60 % makes people feel uncomfortable.

“Imagine yourself in the patient’s position… how would you feel?”

“Never let a patient hear you complain.”

Show compassion.

Never blame another Team Member for something that went wrong. Apologize right away and say,” I will try to correct that for you or I will get someone who can. I’m sorry that happened to you and it will not happen again.”

Anticipate patient needs. For example, if a patient is nauseous and looks like he will vomit, either hand him a plastic basin or hold the basin for him. Another example: If a family member is carrying patient clothing or other item, hold the exterior open so they may enter the building without fumbling to get a free hand to open the door. Perhaps assist with carrying a heavy item.

Introduce yourself to the family that is entering the Hospice House and walk with them to the patient’s room.

Be friendly. Be warm. Be approachable.

Use common courtesy that you learned early in life.

Saying, “Yes/No, Ma’am” and “Yes/No Sir” is not just Southern in it origin, it is just plain good communication and courteous.

Make people feel like they matter

Go the extra mile with the patients and their families. What this looks like has many faces and facets. Being kind is fundamental to this one.

Show appreciation that the patient and family chose Cornerstone Hospice. Say something like: “Thank you for the privilege of serving you and your (loved one) here at Cornerstone.” Every time I’ve said that, the family member reflects that they are the ones grateful that we are serving them. It goes a long way to building a great relationship.

Never be too busy to meet a need. I am sure that we could make a list twice as long as this, but please accept this as a good start. Whether you visit in a patient’s home, or LTC facility, hospital or hospice house it is always proper to be mannerly.  Please be mindful and apply these guidelines for great patient and family care.


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