Translating spiritual care directives: Share your hidden national wisdom!

Translating EAPC documents is a challenging yet vital task. Rev Joep van de Geer, Hospital Chaplain/Project Leader Palliative Care, Medical Centre Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, and Co-Chair of the European Association for Palliative Care Taskforce on Spiritual Care, explains how his taskforce is succeeding in this important work.

Rev Joep van de Geer

Rev Joep van de Geer

Following a course on spiritual care in another country is such an inspiring, yet puzzling experience. Together with my colleague and friend, Carlo Leget, I followed the course ‘Auf der Spur der Spiritualität’ led by Dr Erhard Weiher 1 and Dr Ruthmarijke Smeding  in Mainz, Germany. It confirmed my belief that throughout Europe there must be a number of inspiring projects and documents which we do not know about, simply because all relevant documents are written in the native language.

But we do need to exchange this ‘hidden wisdom’ in order to move spiritual care forward throughout Europe. We need English translations of relevant documents but the group of participants on our course also confirmed the need to translate relevant documents into their language for discussion purposes.

Even though Dutch and German are closely related languages, and reading and speaking German is not a problem for me, translating consensus-based concepts on spiritual care from Dutch to German proved to be more complex than expected. But we have made a start and the core elements of the Dutch guideline on spiritual care are now translated into German.

A small dedicated working group with three German and two Dutch colleagues began by translating and discussing the basic concepts and core parts of the Dutch guideline.

It was an interesting process: exploring each other’s subtle linguistic nuances, in the context of healthcare systems with different structures. Important professionals conditions proved to be different in spiritual palliative care.

For example, in Germany the development of palliative medicine as a specialism is an important development, whereas in The Netherlands palliative care is supposed to be an integral part of every medical discipline. Another, is the position and professional profile of healthcare chaplains in the healthcare system: in both countries these are completely different. In The Netherlands, healthcare chaplains are employed by healthcare institutions; 2 in Germany the vast majority are employed by churches. These, and other political, cultural and professional differences would make a complete, detailed translation pointless.

Therefore we decided to make a core translation. This document aims to facilitate multidisciplinary discussion on the specific demands of developing spiritual care in German-speaking healthcare systems.

To stimulate contributions to the international debate from non-English speaking countries, the EAPC Taskforce on Spiritual Care invites authors to translate relevant national guidance documents (standards, guidelines, programmes). A list of publications related to our taskforce is available to download. Please contact me by email or via our task force website if you would like to discuss.

1. Weiher E. Das Geheimnis des Lebens berühren. Spiritualität bei Krankheit, Sterben, Tod. Eine Grammatik für Helfende. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer; 2011.

2. van de Geer J, Leget CJW. How spirituality is integrated system-wide in the Netherlands Palliative Care National Programme. Progress in Palliative Care 2012(20):98-105.

Links and resources



This entry was posted in EAPC Taskforces/special projects, EAPC-LINKED JOURNALS, SPIRITUAL CARE and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Translating spiritual care directives: Share your hidden national wisdom!

  1. Pingback: Translating spiritual care directives: Share your hidden national wisdom! | EAPC Blog | All Things Palliative - Article Feed

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