Spiritual Health

The Department of Spiritual Health provides personal support, crisis intervention, spiritual care and guidance, short-term counseling, and liaison with local religious communities.

Human beings are spiritual beings as well as physical ones. Spiritual concerns are a natural part of an experience of critical injury or illness.

Kris Bowen
Rev. Kris Bowen, a chaplain at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Patients, their loved ones, and the staff who care for them have spiritual needs and can benefit from attention to the thoughts, feelings, and concerns that go along with serious illness or injury. Even people who do not think of themselves as religious often find that they feel strengthened and comforted by personal attention to their spiritual needs. Simply talking with someone who can understand the burdens of care can bring relief.

People who have an active spiritual life or religious practice frequently find support in the practices that are familiar to them. Prayer, the reading of scripture, sacraments, and other ritual observances can provide comfort, a sense of meaning, and relief from worries associated with the experience of illness.

What is a chaplain?

Hospital chaplains are ministers with specialized training for working in inter-religious health care settings. Our staff chaplains possess faith-group endorsement and professional certification as health care chaplains.

Pastoral services are also provided by Volunteer Eucharistic Ministers, and by students in our programs of Clinical Pastoral Education.

Note: Community clergy and religious leaders are welcome and encouraged to visit people affiliated with their congregations.

Clergy may apply for a hospital-issued ID at the Chaplain's Office, though this is not required. 

What do chaplains do?

DHMC chapel window

Hospital chaplains provide an interfaith ministry with the goal of helping each individual make the best possible use of their own spiritual beliefs. The chaplain will not attempt to convert, persuade, or judge any individual's practice of faith, but will seek to offer a supportive relationship in which to process feelings, mobilize strengths, and discuss spiritual concerns.

Each chaplain is prepared to offer religious ministries consistent with his or her own faith group, and to assist patients and loved ones in identifying sources for religious ministries which they cannot provide. If the services of a spiritual leader of a particular faith group are needed, we will assist you in locating an appropriate person to help. Pastoral counseling may be provided on a short term basis for patients, families, and staff.

Hospital staff may refer patients by telephone or pager, or by eDH consult order. Patients, families, or local clergy may request a chaplain's visit by direct contact with the Chaplaincy office or through Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) staff. Chaplains may also visit without referral as an expression of our hospitality and concern. Patients' refusal of Chaplaincy visits is always respected.

Patient privacy and the Clergy Support

Area clergy are welcome to come to the Spiritual Health Office for support in locating their own parishioners.

We do not allow community clergy to visit patients who are not part of their respective congregations except as invited by the patient. Patients who choose not to be visited by Spiritual Health staff must inform their pastors of their location in the hospital if they wish to be visited by them. Any patient requesting no visits will not have their information shared by their home church from Spiritual Health.

The hospital chapel

We provide a beautiful chapel as a place for rest, reflection and renewal located in the new Patient Pavilion. The space that served as a temporary chapel in the East Mall near the space leading to the Garden of Hope is being called one of DHMC's Sacred Spaces. It is open 24 hours a day. All patients, visitors and staff are welcome to sit still in silence, meditate or pray.

Interfaith Chapel services offered 


12:15 to 12:40 pm 
Buddhist meditation
Meditation sessions will include instruction in seated meditation practice as needed, followed by silent sitting. All are welcome, regardless of religious background or experience.


12:00 pm (noon)
Roman Catholic Mass 
in the chapel as well as broadcast over channel 15 on the in-house channel.


12:00 pm (noon)
Roman Catholic Mass 
in the chapel as well as broadcast over channel 15 on the in-house channel.


1:00 to 1:20 pm
Islamic prayers
Islamic High Friday Prayers are offered in the new Pavilion on Level 1 each Friday afternoon. Prayer rugs are provided.


11:00 am 
Roman Catholic Mass 
In the chapel and broadcast over channel 15 on the in-house television channel.

Religious literature

Scriptural materials from several major religious traditions are provided in the hospital chapel, along with non-sectarian inspirational material related to the healthcare setting. Scriptures of most faith religions are available for delivery to the bedside at the patient's or family's request. General distribution of literature without authorization of the Spiritual Health Office is not permitted.