Why are Some Healthcare Chaplains Registered Professionals and Some are Not? A Survey of Healthcare Chaplains in Scotland


  • Austyn Snowden Edinburgh Napier University
  • Iniobong Enang Edinburgh Napier University
  • W. George Kernohan Ulster University
  • Derek Fraser Cambridge University Hospitals
  • Alan Gibbon NHS Tayside
  • Iain Macritchie NHS Education for Scotland
  • Wilfred McSherry Staffordshire University/University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust
  • Linda Ross University of South Wales
  • John Swinton University of Aberdeen




Professional, professionalization, chaplain, status, survey, accreditation, registration, accountability


The professional status of UK healthcare chaplains remains partial, with voluntary accreditation effective in achieving around 50% registration. This study set out to elicit reasons for this by surveying healthcare chaplains working in Scotland. An online survey was created to gather demographic details and chaplains’ opinions on the importance of five key elements of professional status: A body of knowledge that underpins practice; A code of professional ethics; An occupational organization controlling the profession; Substantial intellectual and practical training; and Provision of a specialized skill or service. Most respondents (38/43) agreed that chaplains should belong to a professional body in order to maintain standards, ensure accountability and formalize professional development. They said that registration reinforced their professional status, added credibility and a clear governance structure to protect the public. However, a minority felt disconnected from the professionalization agenda. This paper discusses the reasons for this. Further UK and international studies into the professional status of chaplains are planned.

Author Biographies

  • Austyn Snowden, Edinburgh Napier University

    Other authors are: Iniobong ENANG



    George KERNOHAN

    Derek FRASER 

    Alan GIBBON

    Iain MacRITCHIE

    Wilf McSHERRY

    Linda ROSS

    John SWINTON

  • Iniobong Enang, Edinburgh Napier University

    Iniobong Enang is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Health and Social Care, Sighthill Campus, Edinburgh Napier University.

  • W. George Kernohan, Ulster University

    George Kernohan is Professor of Health Research at the Institute of Nursing and Health Research, Ulster University, Northern Ireland.

  • Derek Fraser, Cambridge University Hospitals

    Derek Fraser is a Senior Chaplain at Cambridge University Hospitals, Cambridge.

  • Alan Gibbon, NHS Tayside

    Alan Gibbon is Head of Spiritual Care at NHS Tayside, The Wellbeing Centre, Dundee, Scotland.

  • Iain Macritchie, NHS Education for Scotland

    Iain Macritchie is the Programme Director for Spiritual Care and Chaplaincy, NHS Education for Scotland.

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

    Linda Ross is a Professor of Nursing (specializing in spirituality) at the University of South Wales.

  • John Swinton, University of Aberdeen

    John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care in the School of Divinity, Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.


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How to Cite

Snowden, A., Enang, I., Kernohan, W. G., Fraser, D., Gibbon, A., Macritchie, I., McSherry, W., Ross, L., & Swinton, J. (2020). Why are Some Healthcare Chaplains Registered Professionals and Some are Not? A Survey of Healthcare Chaplains in Scotland. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 8(1), 45-69. https://doi.org/10.1558/hscc.39783