Defining and Operationalizing Chaplain Presence: A Review

  • Kevin AdamsEmail author
Philosophical Exploration


Presence is a vaguely defined word often used by chaplains to describe their work with patients, families, and staff. The current literature defines presence as a process of creating a trusting atmosphere for nonjudgmental and compassionate sharing in another’s story. Presence has no apparent agenda, much flexibility, and requires emotional vulnerability in the chaplain interactions. This presents four problems: distinguishing chaplain presence from presence by other providers; dependence on chaplain vulnerability in the encounter; difficulty of assessing impact on patient/family care; and clearly communicating the importance of presence to the interprofessional team. An operational definition is provided including parameters for care and intended outcomes.


Presence Chaplain Spiritual Healthcare 


Compliance with Ethical Standard

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest associated with this review article.

Human and Animal Rights

The developing of this review article did not involve research with human participants or animals.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was not indicated in the developing of this review article.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chaplaincy Services and Pastoral EducationUniversity of Virginia Health SystemCharlottesvilleUSA

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