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January 22, 2016, Detroit – Sister Romona Nowak, OP, a chaplain at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, is one of seven Catholic chaplains who formally received certification as an Advance Certified Hospice Palliative Chaplain.

The presentation will take place at a special Mass on Saturday, April 23, during the 2016 national Conference of the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC), held in Chicago April 22-25.

“Your professional achievement is public recognition by the Catholic Church in the United States that you have seriously pursued education for ministry and that you are prepared for and personally committed to quality palliative care and hospice care,” wrote NACC Executive Director David A. Lichter, D.Min., and Judith A. Shemkovitz, LPC, BCC, Chair of the Certification Commission, in a letter announcing the certification.

To qualify for the certification, Sister Romona completed the online Palliative Care Chaplaincy Specialty Certificate course, offered by the Health Care Chaplaincy Network in partnership with California State University Institute for Palliative Care. She submitted evidence of meeting Palliative/Hospice professional standards and was interviewed by a committee to challenge and affirm her ministry.

Sister Romona distinguished palliative care from hospice. While hospice provides care to people who are at the end of life and no longer want life prolonging treatment, palliative care is appropriate at any time in a person’s serious illness. “It helps people find relief from pain, symptoms and stress from their illnesses while offering emotional and spiritual support,” Sister Romona said. “We provide our expertise to persons who wish to and continue to benefit from curative and life-prolonging therapies."

She explained that palliative care reduces the unnecessary use of hospitals, diagnostic and treatment interventions and non-beneficial intensive care. Patient fears of uncontrolled pain are addressed medically, emotionally, and spiritually because the Palliative Care Team consists of Palliative Care Board Certified doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, and chaplains. 

Quality of life patient-centered care, in contrast to the single focus of disease-specific treatment, requires co-management with palliative care practitioners from diagnosis of a chronic or acute progressive illness. However, at present in the hospital, Palliative Care Teams are consulted for expert symptom management and matching treatments to inform and achieve patient and family goals. As a chaplain, Sister Romona said, “we companion the patient and family through the process and provide the emotional, medical and spiritual support needed to formulate a plan of care that is consistent with their values.” The future for palliative care includes outpatient services and whole-person care. 

Sister Romona is passionate about her ministry in palliative care. She particularly values the “wonderful relatedness to the patient and family—walking the walk and being a companion with them: through their highs and lows, the joys, sorrows and bringing a sense of not being alone because a compassionate God journeys with them.”



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