The relationship between religion and health is due to a complex mixture of health practices, social ties, the provision of systems of meaning, and feelings of strength to cope with stress and adversity. The Pastoral Care Research Collaboration is a multidisciplinary group of researchers that seeks to contribute to the body of evidence on the benefits of pastoral care to patients, staff and families. Importantly, it includes a number of external members from organisations that provide pastoral care and provides a platform for information sharing, collaboration and dissemination.


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Research opportunities

The Pastoral Care Research Collaboration is interested in collaborating on a number of research questions from a range of disciplines, including:

  • How do we define and articulate pastoral care as a discipline? Language used to define and describe pastoral care – including the consideration of calling the practice spiritual care.
  • What is the public understanding of pastoral care? What do patients think pastoral care professionals do? What are some of the misperceptions? (e.g., pastoral care is only available for religious people, for people who are dying, etc.)
  • What are the specific dimensions of pastoral care that differentiate it from social work and psychology, and where do different professions overlap? What are pastoral care workers listening for, hearing and responding to?
  • How are we (should we be) addressing Australia’s demographic changes and multi-faith population? Are we meeting people’s needs?
  • How do we measure what we do and how we do it? How can we translate that to data/explanations?
  • What frameworks are pastoral care practitioners using?
  • Is it possible to develop an overarching pastoral care assessment tool (using WHO code and own discipline language)? Can we develop a universally applied Minimum Data Set with agreed measures on what an effective pastoral care intervention looks like?
  • What are pastoral care practitioners’ responsibilities in the prison context?
  • What are the challenges? (e.g. aging population)
  • How does (and should) pastoral care fit into the youth justice system?
  • Can we define and reach agreement on core competencies/skills /qualifications?
  • How do we improve education on spiritual needs for graduate nurses and orientate them to the spiritual element of care?
  • What are other health professionals’ perceptions of pastoral care? What ways are there to engage staff?
  • What makes pastoral care important/ relevant for CEOs/ executives?
  • Is the availability of pastoral care an element of the decision to choose a particular hospital or aged care facility?
  • What is the role/strength/unique contribution of pastoral care in bereavement?
  • Does providing bereavement support to older people make a difference to their future perspectives on meaning, purpose and connection?
  • What is the role of pastoral care in assisting people with end of life choices and advanced care planning?
  • What training/specialisation is required for this competency?
  • How is a person’s experience of illness/prognosis/dying (including sense of meaning, frame of reference) impacted/shaped by their spirituality? Does such an experience alter their spirituality?
  • What are strengths and limitations of different service provision models and approaches? (e.g., faith based hospital with in-house workers vs govt hospital with a coordinator)
  • Residential age care – what are the differences in outcomes (short-term and long-term) for residents when in-house pastoral care is in place?
  • Compared to external services or no services.
  • How can we assess, and address, the spiritual needs of people living with dementia?

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