Present in Times of Crisis

The Impact of COVID-19 on Activities, Visibility, and Recognizability of Chaplains in a Healthcare Organization in the Netherlands


  • Iris Roosmarijn Wierstra University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht
  • Gaby Jacobs University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht
  • Carmen Schuhmann University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht



chaplaincy, COVID-19, spiritual care, visibility, long-term care, the Netherlands


This article addresses the question of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the activities, visibility, and recognizability of a chaplaincy team in a large healthcare facility in the Netherlands. In the context of a participatory action research project aimed at developing a clear chaplaincy profile in order to increase the visibility and recognizability of chaplains in the organization, the COVID-19 outbreak has had a surprising effect. The chaplains reported an unexpected and sudden increase in their visibility and a strengthening of their profile due to the pandemic. In this article, we explore how the chaplains have responded to the COVID-19 outbreak and reflect on the question of what lessons may be learned from the recent past period regarding visibility and recognizability of chaplaincy in healthcare organizations.

Author Biographies

  • Iris Roosmarijn Wierstra, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht

    Iris Wierstra (1993) received a Research Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Sciences at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Since 2019, she has worked as a researcher on chaplaincy and spiritual care in healthcare at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, The Netherlands and at Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

  • Gaby Jacobs, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht

    Gaby Jacobs (1970) received an MSc in Social Psychology from Tilburg University (Netherlands) and a PhD from the University of Humanistic Studies (Utrecht, Netherlands) on the topic of empowerment in humanist chaplaincy and feminist counseling. From 2009 to 2019 she worked as a Professor at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, Department of People and Health Studies. Currently, she holds a position as full Professor in Humanist Chaplaincy Studies at the University for Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, Netherlands.

  • Carmen Schuhmann, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht

    Carmen Schuhmann (1970) received a PhD in Mathematics from Leiden University, Netherlands, and did research into pure mathematics at the University of Essen, Germany. She then switched to another discipline, and after receiving an MA from the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, Netherlands, she worked as a Humanist Chaplain in the field of criminal justice. Since 2008, she is Assistant Professor in Practical Humanistic Studies at the University of Humanistic Studies; her research interests include existential meaning-making and spiritual/pastoral care in a “secular age.”


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How to Cite

Wierstra, I. R., Jacobs, G., & Schuhmann, C. (2020). Present in Times of Crisis: The Impact of COVID-19 on Activities, Visibility, and Recognizability of Chaplains in a Healthcare Organization in the Netherlands. Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, 8(2), 191-205.