Capability Framework – For Spiritual Care Practitioners in Health (2020)

Spiritual Health Association LogoThis edition of the Capability Framework builds on the strategic alignment introduced in 2016 with the National Common Health Capability Resource and the Allied Health: Credentialling, Competency and Capability Framework. The Framework strengthens and sharpens the focus on the core scope of practice for spiritual care practitioners working in the health sector.

The national Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020 provides the basis for the four levels of professional spiritual care practitioners described in the Framework. Developed through extensive evaluation and consultation, this Framework presents a clear, progressive approach to ensure professional, safe and high-quality spiritual care provision across health services.

As we experience the impact of a global pandemic this year, we are more aware than ever that inner resources need to be recognised and nurtured to support peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.

At Spiritual Health Association, we believe that when spiritual needs are recognised and responded to as an integral part of person-centred care, an essential contribution is made to peoples’ health and wellbeing. Implementation of this Framework will ensure that the spiritual care workforce have the capabilities needed to respond to the diverse spiritual needs of patients, carers and staff.

Together with Spiritual Health Association’s Guidelines for Quality Spiritual Care in Health (2020) and Spiritual Care in Medical Records: A Guide to Reporting and Documenting Spiritual Care Services in Health (2019), this Framework establishes spiritual care’s professional credentials as a key contributor to the delivery of person-centred health care.

At Spiritual Health Association, we believe that when spiritual needs are recognised and responded to as an integral part of person-centred care, an essential contribution is made to peoples’ health and wellbeing.


The Capability Framework for Spiritual Care Practitioners in Health 2020 (Framework) seeks to inform spiritual care practice within a professional health care setting.

The Framework outlines a structure compatible with inter-professional practice for the efficient provision of health care. It supports a consistent approach for providing safe and high-quality spiritual care to patients, families, carers and staff.

The National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards 2017 (2nd Edition), The National Palliative Care Standards (5th Edition) and the Spiritual Care Australia (SCA) Standards of Practice recognise the obligation to respond professionally to people’s diverse spiritual needs.

This Framework outlines a progressive approach to practice, aligned to identified stages of professional development and scope of practice.

Spiritual care practitioners are qualified and credentialled according to industry standards and appointed and credentialled by the health service in which they are employed.

This Framework recognises that spiritual care practitioners are committed to professional development and specifically considers career pathways within health care settings. It offers an approach for consistent professional practice that is responsive to diverse spiritual needs, recognising that spiritual care practitioners come from a diverse range of beliefs, traditions and values.

The role of volunteers is out of scope for this document.

The Framework is intended as a resource for spiritual care practitioners, for those with responsibility for the appointment of spiritual care practitioners, and for education and training providers.

The Framework may be used to:

  • Assist in job design and writing position descriptions based on the required scope of practice
  • Accurately indicate the level at which a role is to be considered, and the implied requirements
  • Guide developing education, training and work-based learning
  • Inform the process of professional review
  • Support planning for personal and professional development
  • Support planning for team development
  • Support development of clear pathways for career progression

Industry Standards are set by Spiritual Care Australia:


In today’s healthcare settings, spiritual care practitioners work alongside many others in providing the multi-dimensional care that reflects the World Health Organisation’s (WHO, 2007) view of health and health care. As health professionals working in highly complex environments, spiritual care practitioners need to work collaboratively, with a clear understanding of their contributions to providing compassionate, person-centred care to individuals, families, carers and staff.

The Capabilities Framework for Pastoral Care & Chaplaincy was produced by Spiritual Health Victoria (SHV) in 2009. In 2016, SHV revised this Framework and produced the Capability Framework for Spiritual Care Practitioners in Health Services, consistent with other allied health professions.

In response to this, and other documentation, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recognised spiritual care as an allied health profession.

The notable shift in language between 2009 and 2016 acknowledged the evolving landscape of spiritual care as an increasingly integrated dimension of health care.

This Framework concisely sets out the capabilities and scope of practice required for the current context.

About this Framework

This edition of the Framework follows the review of extensive feedback from some 50 managers, educators and practitioners who used the 2016 framework within their respective professional settings, gathered through a survey and captured in an evaluation report with recommendations.

The Framework was then revised in consultation with a Working Group of senior spiritual care professionals, and thereafter provided to the wider community for further comment via an online survey, which was subsequently incorporated into this final document.

The decision to base this new Framework on the four levels of the national Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020 (5) came out of the process described above. The level descriptors of the award inform the expected capability and scope of practice applicable to each domain and related elements.

The Framework serves as a resource to clarify the expected skills, experience and attributes required for this work, and the ways that these can be developed appropriately over time. Focused on the individual spiritual care practitioner’s capabilities, the Framework provides a structure for career progression based on incremental development of those capabilities over time, cognisant that this process will depend on the relative size of a health service.

Target Audience

The primary audience for the Framework includes:

  • spiritual care practitioners
  • spiritual care coordinators/managers/directors
  • allied health directors/managers
  • spiritual care management
  • safety and quality managers
  • people and culture managers
  • educators and training providers

Download the Capability Framework


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This document is © Spiritual Health Association. It is provided for reference purposes only. Providing this document on this website does not imply any endorsement nor reference for chaplaincy in health care settings. Please refer to the purpose of the framework in this document.


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