Lost in translation: the chaplain’s role in health care.

Introduction: Chaplains often describe their work in health care as "translation" between the world of the patient and the world of hospital medicine. Translators usually work with texts, interpreters with words. However, when chaplains use this metaphor, it describes something other than a discrete task associated with the meaning of words. While medical professionals focus on patients' medical conditions, chaplains seek to read the whole person, asking questions about what people's lives are like outside of the hospital, what they care about most, and where they find joy and support in the world. Chaplains offer a supportive presence that serves to remind patients and caregivers that people are more than just their medical conditions or their current collection of concerns. Some chaplains are skilled at translating patients' experiences and sources of meaning in real time, allowing medical teams to better understand the person they are treating. "Translation" is also defined as metamorphosis. Chaplains [End Page 23] provide this sort of translation when they are alone with patients, listening to their deepest concerns, helping them redefine their lives.

Hastings Center Report, 38(6), 2008: 23-27.

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