Special Care for the Spirit Is Good Medicine, Too


We're not there to proselytize. We're there to support, to care. It's not something we force on people.

-Mike Flynn, volunteer, Stanford Spiritual Care Service

Cindy Flynn's stay at Stanford included visits from the hospital's Spiritual Care Service team.

The Stanford Hospital Spiritual Care Service program includes more than 200 volunteers in addition to its regular staff and chaplains.

We train them to be respectful, to be reverent, to be gentle in every way so patients can tell us anything they want, how they want, or they can go silent. We're there for them in that moment.

-Father John Hester, Associate Director, Stanford Spiritual Care Service

I don't know how to explain it, but it does make a difference. It's just having somebody there and talking to you as a person, and not just a patient.

-Cindy Flynn, patient, Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Stanford Hospital's Spiritual Care Service is designed to provide the broadest possible resources for patients and their families. Its services include:

  • supportive visits by chaplains and volunteers to serve faith groups whether Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh and other options
  • religious resources such as Bibles, Buddhist chanting tapes, Muslim prayer rugs, Shabbat candles and other prayer materials
  • onsite observances of holidays including Christmas, Chanukah, Eid al-Adha, Diwali and others
  • memorial services
  • an interfaith chapel open 24/7 that contains sacred writings and prayer books of several faith traditions
  • trained volunteers from a variety of faiths

The Spiritual Care Service's clinical pastoral education program is certified by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education and offers a year-long training or summer internship. It also offers a shadowing program for Stanford School of Medicine students.

Stanford's model for spiritual care service has grown to include important innovations:

  • Dedicated volunteers created the first-ever guidebook of its kind to train volunteers for Muslim spiritual care. Pulished in 2007, that guidebook inspired a training manual for all Spiritual Care volunteers.
  • The hospital's Jewish Chaplaincy is directed by Bruce Feldstein, a former emergency medicine physician. He is an adjunct professor of family medicine at Stanford and teaches a required class at the School of Medicine titled "Spirituality & Meaning in Medicine" and an elective class titled "The Healer's Art."
  • In the No One Dies Alone program, volunteers under the supervision of the Rev. Susan Scott serve as compassionate companions by sitting with patients who are dying and alone.
  • The most recent addition to the Spiritual Care Service team is Rabbi Lori Klein, who serves as the chaplain for the Stanford Cancer Center.