Hospitals can save big bucks by putting chaplains on their health care teams. Surprised? Hospitals are beginning to recognize that spiritual well-being can be crucial to the healing process. The Rev. George Frank, director of pastoral care at Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, Illinois, says, "I don't think you can separate the physical from the emotional and spiritual. People are whole people. You can't treat the body without there being a spiritual or emotional impact."
I know that the skeptic might not agree with this idea philosophically, but I'm not talking about philosophy; I'm talking about facts. From 1991 to 1993, Dr. Elizabeth McSherry studied 700 coronary patients admitted to the Brockton/West Roxbury (Virginia) Center.
The group studied received some of the most costly and complicated procedures available such as bypass operations, valve replacements and open heart surgery. Also included in the study were veterans undergoing care for heart attacks and chronic heart disease. One group of patients had daily visits by a chaplain. The other group of patients saw a chaplain an average of three minutes during their entire hospital stay. The study found that patients who had the most contact with the chaplains were released from the hospital an average of two days sooner than patients who did not receive regular visits. Dr. McSherry estimates that the cost of the chaplain visits was no more than $100 per patient. The savings, however, from letting a patient go home earlier amounted to as much as $4,000 a day. The group visited by chaplains also had fewer complications after surgery. Sounds like a logical way to cut our health care costs dramatically. That approach might even be a good idea for all phases of our lives.