Pastoral Psychology

, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 27–34 | Cite as

Spiritual crises facing surgical patients

  • Richard T. Hughes


The surgical patient, then, offers the chaplain a rather special challenge. While most patients suffer a disruption of life and community, this disruption may be particularly trying to the surgical patient due to its suddenness. While most patients undergo certain fears and apprehensions upon hospitalization, it is the surgical patient who must pass through realms of the unknown and never know when this may occur. While virtually anyone may lose his desire to live, the patient who suffers severe emotional trauma in surgery, along with severe distortions of his body, may be particularly susceptible to this apprehensiveness. And while guilt is a common feeling, surgery usually presupposes a disease or accident about which the patient is prone to ask, “What did I do to cause this?” And finally, there are spiritual crises peculiar to particular kinds of surgery.

The hospital minister, then, must learn what to expect on the surgical ward generally, and also in regard to particular types of surgical patients. At the same time he must be open to new and unusual crises. When the chaplain is aware in this way, he will be able to meet, in the lives of surgical patients, the crises that demand the flexible mobilization of all his resources.


Cross Cultural Psychology Special Challenge Severe Distortion Emotional Trauma Common Feeling 
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Copyright information

© Meredith Corporation 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard T. Hughes
    • 1
  1. 1.Pepperdine UniversityLos Angeles

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