Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)



Program Name/Specialization

Spiritual Care and Counselling


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Thomas St. James O'Connor

Advisor Role

Thesis Advisor

Second Advisor

Rev. Dr. David Pfrimmer

Advisor Role

Secondary dissertation advisor

Third Advisor

Dr. George Fitchett

Advisor Role

External Advisor for Dissertation and Oral Defense


Partnerships between Hospitals and Community: A Qualitative Study on Collaboration for Spiritual Care in Healthcare


Hospital-Community Collaborative (HCC) arrangements for the provision of spiritual care have been brokered in certain Ontario hospitals with varying degrees of success. The current study investigated how a community based organization could effectively partner with a healthcare institution to ensure spiritual care support for hospital patients. It asked the question: What factors are essential to make a hospital-community collaboration function well as a model for the provision of spiritual care? Qualitative research was conducted with four hospital corporations with HCC partnerships to ascertain the key factors which enable these arrangements to work, noting also the benefits and the challenges of hospital-community collaborations. A brief survey of the acute care hospitals in Ontario was conducted to ascertain the general type and prevalence of hospital partnership arrangements in the province, specifically, identifying the number of hospital-community collaborations.

Results. In-depth interviews and focus groups were conducted with 56 participants, including healthcare managers, hospital chaplains, board members of the partnering community-based spiritual care organization, and community faith leaders. Three key factors were identified as necessary for collaborative arrangements for spiritual care to work effectively: Leadership (support from the senior hospital managers, community leadership, and chaplain skill set); Shared Responsibility/Cost (between the hospital and community); Relationship Building and Communication (with hospital management, faith leaders, and all funding partners).

The survey found that in Ontario, between 8-10% of acute care hospital corporations, mostly in small population centres, have a hospital-community collaborative where funding and governance for the spiritual care program is jointly held. An additional 13% of acute care hospitals, mostly in medium to large population centres, have a partnership arrangement by contracting for chaplaincy service with a religious denomination.

Implications. Creating a partnership between the healthcare institution and a community organization can be an effective means of ensuring professional spiritual care to all patients, under certain conditions. Hospital-Community Collaborative’s (HCC) tend to function cohesively in small to medium sized population centres and when senior hospital management is fully committed to joint funding and shared decision making in the spiritual care program. As healthcare continues to face fiscal restraint, those attempting to initiate a new spiritual care program will need access to sustainable models of spiritual care. Partnership between hospital and community is a creative and viable model and may be most applicable in smaller or rural based hospitals.


This qualitative research demonstrated how the local community, in particular, faith communities, can partner with their local hospital to establish a spiritual care position to support patients and family members.

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