Elements of chaplaincy in Danish intensive care units: key-informant interviews with hospital chaplains

1 Citation (Scopus)


Critically ill patients often require spiritual counseling. In Denmark, most hospital chaplains are provided by the State Church. More knowledge is needed regarding health care chaplaincy in this semi-agnostic non-secular welfare society. Our study aimed to explore how hospital chaplains describe their role and elements of chaplaincy in relation to patient, family and healthcare professionals in Danish intensive care units. Using a multicenter qualitative design, we performed semi-structured key-informant interviews with ten hospital chaplains. Content analysis exposed elements of chaplaincy based on spirituality, rituality, neutrality, confidentiality, advocacy, and equality. Most elements are similar in other countries; the main differences are related to educational requirements, institutional integration, research activity, and documentation practice. Chaplains fill an ambiguous role, negotiating values of church and hospital. Modern chaplaincy is propelled toward professionalism, quantification, certification and evaluation. We discuss the contemporary role of hospital chaplains and the consequences of categorizing them as part of the ICU team.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of health care chaplaincy
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)540-554
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Chaplaincy Service, Hospital
  • Clergy/psychology
  • Denmark
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Pastoral Care
  • Spirituality


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