Cultural Sensitivity

"Each patient is unique, even in the same religious tradition. Chaplains need to tailor information [they learn] to their patients’ [situation]."
Marni Schreiber

Rev. Dunbar-Perkins' Diverse Collection of Religious Items

A singing bowl, Hmong symbols, a cup and plate for Communion, and a set of Rosary beads, among other items on Reverend Denise Dunbar-Perkins’ desk.

Dream Catcher

A Native American dream catcher in Rev. Dunbar-Perkins’ office to remind her of the Native American patients she has served.

Reverend Denise Dunbar-Perkins, who retired from her position of staff chaplain at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in 2017 after 13 years, had an office full of different objects representing the religious diversity of the patients that she came into contact with as part of the oncology unit. A self-described 'Bapiterian,' or a "Presbyterian pastor with roots in the African-American Baptist tradition," Rev. Dunbar-Perkins interacted with patients from many different religious backgrounds.

Though the objects on Rev. Dunbar-Perkins’ desk represent the diverse population she served, every patient is unique and general religious knowledge cannot be applied to every patient. To help raise awareness of this diversity, Marni Schreiber, a former intern with the Spiritual Care Department at Allina Health, a large health care provider in Minnesota, composed a 30-page guide to help hospital chaplains navigate the intersection of health and cultural and religious differences related to Islamic communities in Minnesota. The guide addressed issues of death, burial, fasting, and birth. Schreiber emphasized that her work was just a guide, and while it provided information and content, "each patient is unique, even in the same religious tradition. Chaplains need to tailor information [they learn] to their patients’ [situation]."

Chaplains remember Schreiber's message. During her time at Abbott Northwestern, Schreiber noted that the Spiritual Care Department was very conscious of the breadth of their patients' ideologies. Although the chaplain core at Abbott Northwestern cannot meet all patients' needs, the department strives to accommodate patients as best they can.