The UAB Pastoral Care Vision

A Roadmap for UAB Pastoral Care

A Roadmap for UAB Pastoral Ca

The future of medicine is changing in the U.S. to support the patient in three contexts:   the hospital, the outpatient clinic, and at home in the community. Creative partnerships are needed and are forming daily.

The American Hospital Association[1] stated in its monthly publication that this expanded focus requires hospitals and health care systems to:

  • move beyond the acute-care in-hospital management of episodes of illnesses,
  • encourage contact with people over time in their communities to maximize the health of each person, and
  • create a better, safer, more efficient and affordable health care system.

Specifically, a greater emphasis will be developed to support persons earlier in the chronic disease process and to keep persons healthier through education and support.

This strategy is referred to as a shift from “Volume Based” to “Value Based” healthcare. Hospitals will no longer be reimbursed solely on doing a particular procedure (volume), but whether the treatment made a difference in the patient’s health (value) over time. Focus is on “readmission rates” which simply means that every hospital’s financial future is partially tied to helping persons stay out of the hospital a minimum of 30 days after discharge. This is good for patients, and is good for all of us.

The Role of UAB Pastoral Care at UAB Medicine

What do these changes mean for pastoral care at UAB Medicine?

UAB Pastoral Care is evolving and reflecting this transition. We are playing a key role in finding ways to care for the whole person and meet practical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients and families in three contexts:

  1. the hospital,
  2. the outpatient clinic, and
  3. at home in the community.

We are on the cutting edge of healthcare chaplaincy.

Below is an overview that is updated periodically given where we are in our plan.

The UAB Pastoral Care Roadmap, May 2014 – present.

  1. Inpatient and Outpatient Model — Chaplain Assignments. 

All Chaplains have assigned areas in inpatient hospital units and one or more outpatient clinics. Our chaplain assignments in inpatient and outpatient care reflect continuity in care (i.e. cardiology, neurology, oncology, geriatrics, transplants, psychiatry, etc.).  Ten percent of all pastoral care visits will be made in the outpatient clinic setting by December, 2015.

  1. Community Model — The Support Team Network.

Chaplains are trained to be a support team “coach.”  A coach starts Support Teams and teaches others how to begin Teams.  We teach interdisciplinary team members within UAB Medicine and faith communities in Alabama to develop Support Teams on their own so that more teams can begin more quickly to meet the needs.

We work with Care Transitions at UAB Medicine to align services across departments and through all care settings so that we avoid working in silos.  We partner with neighbors, friends, and faith-based groups in the care transitions process.  We focus on vulnerable individuals who are isolated, those with challenging psychosocial situations, and those with chronic or critical illness.

A Support Team is a tool in our toolbox at UAB Medicine to help persons have the practical, emotional, and spiritual support they need wherever they are. See for more information.

  1. Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).  

Our CPE Supervisor is committed to our mission to care for persons in all three settings and adapts the CPE program.

Every Chaplain Resident will understand and participate in our mission as a department.

  1. Volunteer Development in UAB Pastoral Care.

As we expand the breadth of our ministry, we will need more assistance with other tasks such as support for families in waiting rooms, help with screening patients, families, or employees to determine where our pastoral care skills can be best utilized.

We are developing a training, supervision, and support process for all volunteers from UAB Pastoral Care that will be an extension of our team.  New volunteer development will expand in 2016 and be a part of our caring for patients in the inpatient, outpatient, and community.

5.  Pastoral Care Research.

We will build a solid, theoretical base of practice that is evidenced based and outcome focused.

6.  Spiritual Care through Tele-Health.

In 2017, UAB Pastoral Care began having a profession chaplain available for spiritual and emotional support by voice or video on one’s phone, iPad, or computer so that you can get the spiritual support you need from home.

This is our vision for the future of pastoral care at UAB MEDICINE as we plan to align our work with how healthcare is changing.

7.  Leadership Team.

In 2019, our department formed an interdisciplinary Leadership Team composed of physicians, nurses, social workers, and others to help us integrate Support Teams into daily care of patients at UAB MEDICINE.

For more information, contact Malcolm Marler, Sr. Director of Pastoral Care


Phone:  205.934.3936

(1) American Hospital Association. (2013, January). Engaging Health Care Users: A Framework for Healthy Individuals and Communities. Chicago: American Hospital Association, 2012 Committee on Research, Benjamin K. Chu and John G. O’Brien, co-chairs.