The call to chaplaincy came to Matt Moser in his early 20s when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He called a priest, who came to visit, and the two talked into the night until he was able to find peace.
This experience inspired Matt to pursue a religious vocation, later becoming a hospice chaplain to provide spiritual and emotional support to patients, families and staff.
“I like to think of what I do as spiritual-moral support because I believe the fundamental goal of my care is to encourage,” says Matt.
Matt believes that hope is a choice. “One patient, who ascribed to Buddhism, asked me to remind her amid the dying process what she believed, which was that dying was a growing process and a blessing to both future and past generations,” says Matt.
Hospice chaplains live the Fairview mission every day, understanding that healing is always possible even if curing isn’t and that spirituality is a big part of this.
What they do
Matt’s position falls under hospice; however, he and other hospice chaplains work to coordinate some efforts with the systemwide Spiritual Health Services strategy.
As hospice care is palliative in nature, chaplains are part of our hospital palliative care teams, an important role creating continuity between inpatient care and hospice services.
Hospice chaplains average about four visits a day or 20 visits each week.
But unlike hospital chaplains, who are limited to the hospital or a unit in the hospital, hospice chaplains visit patients wherever they live.
“Like hospital chaplains, we are often paged to visit actively dying patients,” says Matt. “We may also visit the patient’s family after the death of the patient.”
They are also involved in the community, offering education on grief and ethics, and they may lead memorial services of patients for whom they have provided care.
Hospice chaplains are members of an interdisciplinary team composed of the medical director, nurse case manager, social worker, music therapist and massage therapist.
Each chaplain is also on myriad teams that meet weekly to discuss the biopsychosocial-spiritual aspects of patient care.
With every job come challenges. “I would say working in the field on our own is the biggest challenge,” says Matt. “We work out of a ‘car-office,’ which, for me, can be emotionally challenging at times.”
Chaplain training requires an advanced degree, typically the Master of Divinity, which requires more than 70 graduate-level credits. It also requires a clinical residency, known as Clinical Pastoral Education, and board certification.
Why they do it
The job is challenging but worth it, Matt says.
“My favorite memory was when a patient in his late 90s said to me, ‘I love you . . . I will remember you forever.’ I was so very touched,” he says.
“Surprising to people is that I find the work rewarding. Yes, it can be sad and sometimes hard; but, more often than not, it is rewarding to accompany people in this stage of their lives.”