What Is the Distinctiveness of Paediatric Chaplaincy?

Findings from a Systematic Review of the Literature


  • Paul Nash Birmingham Children's Hospital
  • Wilfred McSherry Staffordshire University, University Hospitals of North Midlands, UK; VID Specialized University, Bergen, Norway




paediatric, systematic literature review, chaplaincy, hospital


A systematic review of the literature was undertaken to identify the distinctiveness of paediatric chaplaincy. Four representative databases were searched using key words and Boolean searches: Proquest Nursing and Allied Health Source, Psychinfo, Cumulative Index of Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) and American Theological Library Association (ATLA). Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to identify pertinent literature. The search resulted in the identification of 96 items. These were retrieved and reviewed. A narrative approach to thematic analysis was adopted. This lead to the creation of four broad themes; relating to and supporting families including those receiving palliative, end of life and bereavement care; supporting children including spiritual and religious care; working as a part of multidisciplinary/ professional team; staff support and self-care. The findings suggest there is a notable lack of research undertaken by paediatric chaplains. Suggestions for education, practice and further research are offered.

Author Biographies

Paul Nash, Birmingham Children's Hospital

Paul Nash is the Senior Chaplain at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Steelhouse Lane Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Wilfred McSherry, Staffordshire University, University Hospitals of North Midlands, UK; VID Specialized University, Bergen, Norway

Wilfred McSherry is Professor of Nursing, School of Health and Social Care, Staffordshire University/ e University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, UK; and part-time Professor, Vitenskapelig International, Diaconal (VID) Specialized University (Haraldsplass Campus), Bergen, Norway.


Boland, A., M. G. Cherry and R. Dickson (2014) Doing a Systematic Review. London: SAGE Publications.

Booth, A., D., Papaioannou and A. Sutton (2012) Systematic Approaches to Successful Literature Reviews. London: SAGE Publications.

Bull, A., and M. Gillies (2007) “Spiritual Needs of Children with Complex Healthcare Needs in Hospital”. Paediatric Nursing (November) 19(9): 34–38. https://doi.org/10.7748/paed.19.9.34.s24

Bull, A. W. (2013) “The Insights Gained from a Portfolio of Spiritual Assessment Tools Used with Hospitalised School Aged Children to Facilitate the Delivery of Spiritual Care Offered by the Healthcare Chaplain”. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Glasgow, UK.

Burleigh, B. (2011) “Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust”. In Being a Chaplain, ed. M. Threlfall-Holmes and M. Newittt, 47–49. London: SPCK.

Cadge, W. (2013) Paging God. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Cadge, W., K. Calle and J. Dillinger (2011) “What Do Chaplains Contribute to Large Academic Hospitals? The Perspectives of Pediatric Physicians and Chaplains”. Journal of Religion and Health 50(2): 300–12.

Cater, D. G. (1963) “Some Observations Concerning Religious Ministry to Institutionalized Physically Handicapped Children”. Journal of Pastoral Care 17(2): 85–92. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-011-9474-8

Cronin, P., F. Ryan, A. Charlescraft, A. Tartaglia, D. Dodd-McCue and S. B. Barker (2010) “When Caring Hurts: a Pilot Study Supporting Compassion Fatigued Pediatric Critical Care Nurses”. Chaplaincy Today 26(2): 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/10999183.2010.10767408

Cobb, M. (2009) The Hospital Chaplains Handbook. Norwich: Canterbury Press.

Coughlan, M. (2008) “Undertaking a Literature Review: a Step-by-step Approach”. British Journal of Nursing 17(1): 38–43.

Darby, K., P. Nash and S. Nash (2014) “Understanding and Responding to Spiritual and Religious Needs of Young People with Cancer”. Cancer Nursing Practice 13(2): 32–37. https://doi.org/10.7748/cnp2014.

de Boer, J. C., G. van Blijderveen, G. van Dijk, H. J. Duivenvoorden and M. Williams (2012) “Implementing Structured, Multiprofessional Medical Ethical Decision-making in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit”. Journal of Medical Ethics 38(10): 596–601. https://doi.org/10.1136/medethics-2011-100250

Department of Health (2003) NHS Confidentiality: Code of Practice. London: Department of Health.

Desai, P. P., J. B. Ng and S. G. Bryant (2002) “Care of Children and Families in the CICU: A Focus on Their Developmental, Psychosocial, and Spiritual Needs”. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly 25(3): 88–97. https://doi.org/10.1097/00002727-200211000-00011

Eichmann, M. E. (2000) “The Neonatal Infant as Parishioner The Impact upon Mothers of Pastoral Care Extended to Their Neonatal Infants”. Chaplaincy Today 16(1): 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/10999183.2000.10767134

Evans, D. (2003) “Hierarchy of Evidence: a Framework for Ranking Evidence Evaluating Healthcare Interventions”. Journal of Clinical Nursing 2(1): 77–84. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2702.2003.00662.x

Feudtner, C., J. Haney and M. A. Dimmers (2003) “Spiritual Care Needs of Hospitalized Children and Their Families: A National Survey of Pastoral Care Providers’ Perceptions”. Pediatrics 111(1): 67–72. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.111.1.e67

Fosarelli, P. (2003) Whatever You Do For the Least of These. Liguori: Liguori Publications.

Freyer, D. R., A. Kuperberg, D. J. Sterken, S. L. Pastyrnak, D. Hudson and T. Richards (2006) “Multidisciplinary Care of the Dying Adolescent”. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 15(3): 693–715. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2006.02.003

Grossoehme, D. H. (1996) “Prayer Reveals Belief: Images of God from Hospital Prayers”. Journal of Pastoral Care 50(1): 33–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/002234099605000104

—(1999) The Pastoral Care of Children. Binghamton: Haworth Press.

—(2007b) “Pediatricians Characteristics Associated With Attention to Spirituality and Religion in Clinical Practice”. Pediatrics 119(1): 117–23. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2006-0642

—(2008a) “Development of a Spiritual Screening Tool for Children and Adolescents”. The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 62(1–2): 71–85. https://doi.org/10.1177/154230500806200108

Grossoehme, D. H., S. Cotton and A. Leonard (2007a) “Spiritual and Religious Experiences of Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatients versus Healthy Peers”. The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 61(3): 197–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/154230500706100304

Grossoehme, D. H., R. VanDyke and M. Seid (2008b) “Spirituality’s Role in Chronic Disease Self-management: Sanctification of the Body in Families Dealing with Cystic Fibrosis”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 15(2): 149–58. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854720903163312

Grossoehme, D. H., J. Ragsdale, J. L. Wooldridge, S. Cotton and M. Seid (2010a) “We Can Handle This: Parents’ Use of Religion in the First Year Following their Child’s Diagnosis with Cystic Fibrosis”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 16(3-4): 95–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2010.480833

Grossoehme, D. H., J. Ragsdale, S. Cotton, J. L. Wooldridge, L. Grimes and M. Seid (2010b) “Parents’ Religious Coping Styles in the First Year after Their Child’s Cystic Fibrosis Diagnosis”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 16(3-4): 109–122. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2010.480836

Grossoehme, D. H., S. Cotton, J. Ragsdale, A. L. Quittner, G. McPhail and M. Seid (2013a) “‘I Honestly Believe God Keeps Me Healthy so I Can take Care of My Child’: Parental Use of Faith Related to Treatment Adherence”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 19(2): 66–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2013.779540

Grossoehme, D. H., S. Cotton and G. McPhail (2013b) “Use and Sanctification of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by Parents of Children with Cystic Fibrosis”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 19(1): 22–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2013.761007

Grossoehme, D. H., R. Szczesniak, G. L. McPhail and M. Seid (2013c) “Is Adolescents’ Religious Coping with Cystic Fibrosis Associated with the Rate of Decline in Pulmonary Function? – A Preliminary Study”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 19(1): 33–42. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2013.767083

Hart, C. W., and S. Matorin (1997) “Collaboration between Hospital Social Work and Pastoral Care to Help Families Cope with Serious Illness and Grief”. Psychiatric Services (Washington, D.C.) 48(12): 1549–552. https://doi.org/10.1176/ps.48.12.1549

Herrmann, N. (1992) “No Better or Wiser, Just Braver and Sicker”. Journal of the American Medical Association 268(15): 2102. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1992.03490150156043

Hesch, J. (1987) Clinical Pastoral Care for Hospitalized Children and their Families. New York: Paulist Press.

Hinds, P. S., L. Oakes, W. Furman, P. Foppiano, M. S. Olson, A. Quargnenti and C. Strong (1997) “Decision Making by Parents and Healthcare Professionals When Considering Continued Care for Pediatric Patients with Cancer”. Oncology Nursing Forum 24(9): 1523–528.

Ingham-Broomfield, R. B. (2016) “A Nurses’ Guide to the Hierarchy of Research Designs and Evidence”. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing 33(3): 38–43.

Lamiani, G., E. C. Meyer, D. M. Browning, D. Brodsky and I. D. Todres (2009) “Analysis of Enacted Difficult Conversations in Neonatal Intensive Care”. Journal of Perinatology 29(4): 310–16. https://doi.org/10.1038/jp.2008.228

Lotz, J. D., R. J. Jox, G. D. Borasio and M. Führer (2013). “Pediatric Advance Care Planning: A Systematic Review”. Pediatrics 131(3): 873–80. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-2394

Lyndes, K. A., G. Fitchett, N. Berlinger, W. Cadge, J., Misasi and E. Flanagan (2012) “A Survey of Chaplains’ Roles in Pediatric Palliative Care: Integral Members of the Team”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 18(1-2): 74–93. https://doi.org/10.1080/08854726.2012.667332

Massey, K., M. J. Barnes, D. Villines, J. D. Goldstein, A. L. Pierson, C. Scherer, B. V. Laan and W. T. Summerfelt (2015) “What Do I Do? Developing a Taxonomy of Chaplaincy Activities and Interventions for Spiritual Care in Intensive Care Unit Palliative Care”. BMC Palliative Care 14(1): 10–17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12904-015-0008-0

Meeks, R. (2009). “Parental Presence in Pediatric Trauma Resuscitation: One Hospital’s Experience”. Pediatric Nursing 35(6): 376–80.

Meert, K. L., S. H. Briller, S. M. Schim, C. Thurston and A. Kabel (2009) “Examining the Needs of Bereaved Parents in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: A Qualitative Study”. Death Studies 33(8): 712–40. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481180903070434

Ministries Team (2013) Called to Be a Youth Specialist. Didcot: Baptist Union. http://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/368855/Called_to_be.aspx

Nash, P., K. Darby and S. Nash (2013) “The Spiritual Care of Sick Children: Reflections From a Pilot Participation Project”. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality 18(2): 148–61. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364436X.2012.752345

—(2015a) Spiritual Care with Sick Children and Young People. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Nash, P., S. Nash and C. Frith (2011) Perspectives on Spirituality and Sick Children and Young People in a Multicultural Paediatric Hospital Context – Identifying and Responding to Spiritual Needs. http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/nashspaper.pdf

Nash, P., M. Parkes and Z. Hussain (2015b) Multifaith Care for Sick and Dying Children and Their Families. London: Jessica Kingsley. https://doi.org/10.17226/21754

NHS Education for Scotland (2009) Spiritual Care Matters: an Introductory Resource for All NHS Scotland Staff. Edinburgh: NES.

National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2006) Standards for Development of Clinical Guidelines and Implementation in Paediatrics and Child Health. London: National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

O’Connell, D. (2013) Working with Children and Young People: Good Practice Guidelines for Healthcare Chaplains. Birmingham: Red Balloon Resources.

Oxford English Dictionary. “distinctiveness”. https://tinyurl.com/ksvz2ko

Popay, J., H. Roberts, A. Sowden, M. Petticrew, L. Arai, M. Rodgers, N. Britten, K. Roen and S. Duffy (2006) Guidance on the Conduct of Narrative Synthesis in Systematic Reviews. A Product from the ESRC Methods Programme. Lancaster: Lancaster University.

Powers, K. S., B. Goldstein, C. Merriam, M. Chiafery, L. Tornabene and S. Paprocki (1994) “A Multidisciplinary Approach to Families of Brain Dead Children: Clinical Intensive Care”. International Journal of Critical & Coronary Care Medicine 5(4): 191–96.

Robinson, M. R., M. M. Thiel, M. M. Backus and E. C. Meyer (2006) “Matters of Spirituality at the End of Life in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit”. Pediatrics 118(3): 719–29. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2005-2298

Rudd, R. A., and L. M. D’Andrea (2013) “Professional Support Requirements and Grief Interventions for Parents Bereaved By an Unexplained Death at Different Time Periods in the Grief Process”. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health 15(1): 51–68.

Schooley, C. C. (1974) “Communicating with Hospitalized Children: The Mutual Storytelling Technique”. Journal of Pastoral Care 28(2): 102–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/002234097402800206

Schneider, M. A., and R. C. Mannell (2006) “Beacon in the Storm: An Exploration of the Spirituality and Faith of Parents whose Children have Cancer”. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing 29(1): 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/01460860500523731

Seltz, L. B., L. Zimmer, L. Ochoa-Nunez, M. Rustici, L. Bryant and D. Fox (2011) “Latino Families’ Experiences with Family-centered Rounds at an Academic Children’s Hospital”. Academic Pediatrics 11(5): 432–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2011.06.002

Shelly, J. A. (1982) The Spiritual Needs of Children. Downers Grove, IL: IVP.

Smith, J., and W. McSherry (2004) “Spirituality and Child Development: A Concept Analysis”. Journal of Advanced Nursing 45(3): 307–15. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02891.x

Snodgrass, J. L. (2012) “A Psychospiritual, Family-centered Theory of Care for Mothers in the NICU”. The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 66(1): 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/154230501206600102

Sommer, D. R. (2012) “Pediatric Chaplaincy”. In Professional, Spiritual and Pastoral Care A Practical Clergy and Chaplain’s Handbook, ed. S. B. Roberts, 358–82. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths.

Speck, P. W. (1988) Being There: Pastoral Care in Time of Illness. London: SPCK.

Swift, C. (2014) Hospital Chaplaincy in the Twenty-first Century. Farnham: Ashgate.

UKBHC (2012) Code of Conduct for Healthcare Chaplains. London: UKBHC.

Weinstein, L. (2001) “Playing Well with Others: the Discipline in a Pediatric Hospital”. Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy 11(1): 129–32. https://doi.org/10.1300/J080v11n01_06



How to Cite

Nash, P., & McSherry, W. (2017). What Is the Distinctiveness of Paediatric Chaplaincy? Findings from a Systematic Review of the Literature. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 5(1), 16-32. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.31816