An article on the front page of the NY Times today (August 2, 2010), titled Evidence Grows of Problem of Clergy Burnout - a Break from Work Is Healthy (Even If It's the Lord's Work), deals with the issue of burnout by members of the clergy. Public health expert who have looked at this trend, found that members of the clergy suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression that are higher than seen in the overall populations in the United States. Since 2010 the expected life span of members of the
clergy has decreased. Their use of anti-depressants has increased. And, many would leave the ministry if they could. One thing that comes out of this research is that taking more time off is a remedy. However, according to the study, "these people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7," a pattern that is difficult to break, even when their denomination is encouraging them to take time off. This has potential serious negative implications for palliative care programs and hospices and may limit the ability of these programs to provide spiritual care in hospitals, long term care facilities, hospices and in the community. Coming on the heels of the 2009 report of the consensus conference titled, Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care: The Report of the Consensus Conference, which made it clear that spiritual care is a fundamental component of quality palliative care. This is likely to require more social workers and training for those social workers, who, like clergy, use a narrative approach and active listening to assess patients.