Communicating Chaplains’ Care: Narrative Documentation in a Neuroscience-Spine Intensive Care Unit

Rebecca Johnson*, M. Jeanne Wirpsa, Lara Boyken, Matthew Sakumoto, George Handzo, Abel Kho, Linda Emanuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Chaplaincy care is different for every patient; a growing challenge is to ensure that electronic health records function to support personalized care. While ICU health care teams have advanced clinical practice guidelines to identify and integrate relevant aspects of the patient’s story into whole person care, recommendations for documentation are rare. This qualitative study of over 400 free-text EHR notes offers unique insight into current use of free-text documentation in ICU by six chaplains integrated into the healthcare team. Our research provides insight into the phenomena chaplains record in the electronic record. Content analysis shows recurrent report of patient and family practices, beliefs, coping mechanisms, concerns, emotional resources and needs, family and faith support, medical decision making and medical communications. These findings are important for health care team discussions of factors deemed essential to whole person care in ICUs, and, by extension have the potential to support the development of EHR designs that aim to advance personalized care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-150
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Health Care Chaplaincy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • Chaplaincy care
  • documentation
  • electronic health record
  • spiritual care
  • team communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Religious studies


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