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Cal State San Marcos Offers Palliative Care Class For Chaplains

Cal State San Marcos will launch the nation's first online course on palliative care for chaplains. The class highlights the role chaplains play in helping to ease pain and suffering.

Aired 2/22/13 on KPBS News.

With the demand for palliative care growing, Cal State San Marcos is introducing an online class for chaplains to help them deal with severely ill and terminal patients.

Chaplains normally receive spiritual training, but most aren't trained to work with patients who are seriously ill or dying.

Helen McNeal, executive director of the Institute for Palliative Care at Cal State San Marcos, said the new online course will help chaplains learn about patients' spiritual and emotional needs.

"Some of those issues are issues of spiritual pain, dealing with family dynamics, dealing with questions of their own meaning in life," McNeal explained. "As you approach the end of life, how have I lived my life, what are my regrets?"

Most California hospitals and a growing number of long-term care facilities have palliative care programs. McNeal said her course will help chaplains who work in those settings enhance their skills.

The nine-week class is being offered in conjunction with HealthCare Chaplaincy, a multifaith group based in New York.

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