Activity 12:Observe a Hospital Prayer Room/Interview a Chaplain



Background: Religion is widespread in today's society and is often a significant source of comfort that people turn to in times of struggle.  Research shows that religious/spiritual beliefs and their incorporation into healthcare can have a significant impact on patient outcomes, providing them with a sense of hope, strength, and peace.  Recognizing this, many hospitals contain chapels or interfaith prayer rooms to help patients maintain this connection to their faith while receiving medical care.
●           Observe a hospital prayer room
●           Interview a hospital chaplain
●           Students will explore the role of religion and spirituality in healthcare
●           Students will analyze the impact of religious/spiritual beliefs on patient and family health/mood while in the hospital
●           Students will analyze religious symbols and objects present in a hospital prayer room to gain insight into patient populations
●           A hospital with a prayer room and chaplain
Recommended Preparatory Reading/Materials:
●           Thinking Activity: What role do you think religious/spiritual beliefs play in both providing and receiving healthcare?
●           Padela, Aasim I., et al. “Religious Values and Healthcare Accommodations: Voices from the American Muslim Community.” Journal of General Internal Medicine, Springer-Verlag, 4 Jan. 2012,
●           McCormick, Thomas R, and D. Min. “Spirituality and Medicine.” Spirituality and
Medicine: Ethical Topic in Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, 7 Aug. 2014,
●           Especially the sections titled:
○           Why is it important to attend to spirituality in medicine?
○           How can respect for persons involve a spiritual perspective?
○           How should I work with hospital chaplains?

Time Commitment:
●           Minimum of 15 minutes for observing the hospital prayer room
●           Around 30 minutes for interviewing the hospital chaplain
Appropriate For:
●           Secondary and post-secondary students interested in healthcare
●           Medical students
Activity Description:
Go to a hospital and locate its prayer room. Examine the religious materials present, i.e. religious texts, iconography, prayer mats, rosaries, etc. Take notes and make a list of the items present. If you do not know what an item is, just write a description of it. Observe the prayer room and take note of the design/layout, environment, and lighting. Look around for a schedule of services and for any pamphlets. Note the number of people present, what they are doing, and their apparent moods (also note the time and day). 
Locate the chaplain’s office and set a time for a one-on-one interview. Make a list of questions to ask beforehand that includes:
●           What do you feel is your role in the hospital?
●           What services do people commonly ask you for?
●           What does a meeting between you and a patient/family member typically look like?
●           Who do people of other religions go to? Does this hospital employ other religious leaders?
Reflect on these observations and the interview. What do the religious materials present tell you about the hospital’s patient demographic? What is the role of religion and spirituality in a hospital setting? How does an inclusive/diverse (catering to multiple religions) prayer room support patients in a hospital?

Authors: Taylor Senay, Sarah McDonald, Marlaina Parker, Saadia Akhtar