Are the Providers of Spiritual Care in your Hospital Capable? Narrative Review of Professional Accountability in Australia


  • Kate Eve Australian National University
  • Christine Phillips Australian National University



spiritual care, education, workforce, capability, governance, standards, chaplaincy


Although spiritual care practitioners, also variously known as pastoral care workers or chaplains, have had a foundational presence in most Australian hospitals, the discipline has been poorly regulated and does not have national standards of care. This leads to inconsistencies in the way hospital administrators are able to scrutinize the credentials, supervision processes and capability of the Spiritual Care workforce. This paper is a narrative review of the systems ensuring safe practice for the Spiritual Care workforce, focusing on the relationships between professional associations, clinical workforce capability and education in this field of practice in Australia. Substantial gaps and inconsistencies are revealed in the education and training of clinical practitioners, findings which align with variability of practitioner capability and which provide no assurance of quality or accountability. On the basis of these findings, recommendations are provided for relevant stakeholders with a view to improving safety and quality of care consistent with other health care professions and to assure the Australian public that accountability is core to the services provided in their name and under their jurisdiction.

Author Biographies

Kate Eve, Australian National University

Kate Eve is undertaking a Master of Culture, Health & Medicine degree at The Australian National University and a Graduate Certificate of Spirituality at Whitley College, University of Divinity. She is an active Spiritual Director, Counsellor, and a Tutor in Spiritual and Pastoral Care; was Manager of Spiritual Care, Eastern Health, Victoria, from October 2014 to March 2018; a Spiritual Care Australia Director (2012–18) and their President/Chair (2014–17).


Christine Phillips, Australian National University

Christine Phillips is Associate Professor, Social Foundations of Medicine at The Australian National University College of Health and Medicine. Areas of expertise: Primary Health Care; Public Health and Health Services. Her research interests are Primary health care systems; Refugee health and the health of vulnerable persons; Interprofessional working in health settings.


Asquith Jnr, G. H. (1980) “The Case Study Method of Anton T. Boisen”. The Journal of Pastoral Care 34(2): 84–94,

Association for Supervised and Clinical Pastoral Education in Victoria (2019) The History of ASPEA Inc. Available at:

Australia and New Zealand Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. (2017) Standards CPE. Available at:

Australian Consortium for Classification Development (2017) Chronical for Australian Classification of Health Interventions (ACHI) – First to Tenth Edition. Independent Hospital Pricing Authority pp. 207, 209, 211, 216, 725, 734, 747, 774, 920. Available at:

Carey, L. B., and J. Cohen (2015) “The Utility of the WHO ICD-10-AM Pastoral Intervention Codings within Religious, Pastoral and Spiritual Care Research”. Journal of Religion and Health 54(5): 1772–1787.

Carey, L. B., and C. Newell (2002) “Clinical Pastoral Education and the Value of Empirical Research: Examples from Australian and New Zealand Datum”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 12: 1–2, 53–65.

Carey, L. B. (2012) “Bioethical Issues and Health Care Chaplaincy in Aotearoa New Zealand”. Journal of Religion and Health 51(2): 323–35.

Canadian Association for Spiritual Care/Association Canadienne de Soins Spirituels. (2017a) Competencies for Spiritual Care Practitioners and Psycho-Spiritual Therapists. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2018).

—(2017b) Scope of Practice. Available at: (accessed 24 October 2018).

Emanuel, E. J, and L. L. Emanuel (1996) “What Is Accountability in Health Care?” Annals of Internal Medicine 124(2): 229–39.

Gardner, F. (2011) Critical Spirituality: A Holistic Approach to Contemporary Practice, 24–26. Surrey: Ashgate.

Handzo, G. F., M. Cobb, C. Holmes, E. Kelly and S. Sinclair (2014) “Outcomes for Professional Health Care Chaplaincy: An International Call to Action”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 20(2): 43–53.

Hennequin, C. (2018) Evaluation of Two Spiritual Health Victoria Frameworks and Current Trends in ‘Best Practice’ and ‘Data Collection’. Proceedings of the National Spiritual Care Australia Conference; 6-9 May 2018; Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, Available at: (accessed 2 November 2018 [membership required to access]).

Holmes, C. (2018) “Stakeholder Views on the Role of Spiritual Care in Australian Hospitals: An Exploratory Study”. Health Policy 122(4): 389–95.

Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy (2018) Statement of Intent: 2018–2021. (accessed 19 March 2019).

Kelly, E. (2012) Board Paper Summary: Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Update and Planned Review of Education and Training. (accessed 24 October 2018).

Mitchell, D. (2018) Postgraduate Certificate in Healthcare Chaplaincy. (accessed 24 October 2018).

Mowat, H. (2008) The Potential for Efficacy of Healthcare Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Provision in the NHS (UK) – A Scoping Review of Recent Research. Aberdeen (Scotland): Mowat Research Ltd.

New Zealand Healthcare Chaplains’ Association. (2018a) (accessed 12 February 2019).

—(2018b) Statement of Ethics and Vocational Intent. (accessed 12 February 2019).

Professional Standards Authority (2018) About us. (accessed 24 October 2018).

Ross, M. (2015) “Entrustable Professional Activities”. The Clinical Teacher 12: 223–25.

Rumbold, B. (2013) “Spiritual Assessment and Health Care Chaplaincy”. Christ Bioeth 19(3): 251–69.

Spiritual Care Australia (2014) Standards of Practice. (accessed 2 November 2018).

Spiritual Health Victoria (2015) Spiritual Care Providers (Faith Community Appointed) Credentialling Framework. Available at: (accessed 2 November 2018).

—(2016) Capability Framework for Spiritual Care Practitioners in Victorian Health Services. (accessed 2 November 2018).

—(2018) Volunteers. (accessed 2 November 2018).

Turner, C. (2018) Secular Spirituality: Is There Such a Thing as Spirituality of No Religion? Proceedings of the National Spiritual Care Australia Conference; 6-9 May 2018; Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. (accessed 2 November 2018, [membership required to access]).

UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (2017) UKBHC Capabilities and Competences for Healthcare Chaplains. (accessed 24 October 2018).

—(2018a) About the UKBHC. (accessed 24 October 2018).

—(2018b) Registration. (accessed 24 October 2018).

—(2018c) Training and Education. (accessed 24 October 2018).

University of Divinity, Melbourne (2018) Clinical Pastoral Education. (accessed 24 October 2018).

University of Glasgow (2018) Postgraduate Taught Healthcare Chaplaincy PgCert. Scotland. (accessed 24 October 2018).



How to Cite

Eve, K., & Phillips, C. (2020). Are the Providers of Spiritual Care in your Hospital Capable? Narrative Review of Professional Accountability in Australia. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 7(2), 241–253.