Bedside Manners – Book Review

One of my professional goals for the year is to develop a more educated skill set in pastoral care.  To that end I will read and review a couple of resources and shadow other pastors in their work.

A couple of weeks ago now I sat down and read Bedside Manners: A Practical Guide to Visiting the Ill by Katie Maxwell.

It was a very accesible read and, while repetitive at times, it did contain some good and helpful material.  Maxwell opened with conversation about general Be-Attitudes for pastoral visitation.  She insisted that it was of the utmost importance that we be still and listen, that we be human, and that we be ourselves.  She then provided specific sections on visiting in hospitals, shut-ins, nursing homes, children, and those who are terminally ill.  It was in these sections that she began to get repetitive.

Through the entire text there were two big themes or takeaways that jumped out at me:

1.) When we are caring it is important to ask lots of permission giving questions.  Would you like a visit?  Would you like me to sit?  Would you like to read scripture?  Would you like me to come back another time?  Asking questions like these gives the one being visited power and control in a time or situation where they don’t have power or control over much.  This can be empowering for the ill and develop a strong bond between the caregiver and the person being cared for.

2.) As caregivers it is vitally important that we do what we say we’re going to do.  If we say we’ll visit – visit.  If we say that we’ll follow-up – follow-up.  If we say that we’ll provide resources, check on something, bring something – we need to do it.  My first thought was that this seemed like common sense (and maybe it is) but the more I reflected on it I thought about how important this is, not just when caring, but for all of life.

Overall I’d recommend the book.  It was a quick afternoon read over a cup of coffee and I know I’ll continue to refer to it in the future.


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