Back to Top New spiritual care guide – a first in North America – helps hospitals provide support during disasters - The Ottawa Hospital


New spiritual care guide – a first in North America – helps hospitals provide support during disasters


Chaplains Linda Miller (left) and Rev. Tom Granger were part of an interprofessional team that developed the Emergency Spiritual Care Assistance Team (ESCAT) Guide, which helps ensure that spiritual and emotional support does not get missed during a disaster or Code Orange.

In any disaster or Code Orange, medical attention for victims is crucial. But they, along with their families and loved ones, also need spiritual and emotional support. That’s what inspired The Ottawa Hospital to develop the Emergency Spiritual Care Assistance Team (ESCAT) Guide – the first of its kind in North America.

“In the spiritual care realm, this is without precedent,” said Geneviève Côté, Professional Practice Manager for Psychosocial Services. “We are asked for it regularly and expect quite a bit of uptake now that it is in a nice, published format.”

The team trains local faith group members in disaster response and disaster spiritual care so that they can work alongside hospital chaplains during a Code Orange. This program was then outlined in the ESCAT Guide, which teaches other hospitals and facilities how to create their own ESCAT program based on their resources and stakeholders.

ESCAT provides a spiritual care component to The Ottawa Hospital’s emergency preparedness plan. With ESCAT, the hospital can better provide comprehensive, compassionate care to those affected by a tragedy.

For every one casualty in a disaster, it’s estimated there are hundreds of people who need psychological and spiritual help after the event. By helping to provide spiritual and emotional support to victims, families, loved ones and staff members, ESCAT ensures that this key component to world-class care does not get missed.


The ESCAT Guide outlines the structure, processes and functions of a disaster spiritual care team pre-disaster, during disaster and post-disaster. This includes information about administrative committees, volunteer recruiting and screening, training workshops, and communication for before, during and after a disaster.

Côté first experienced the need for ESCAT during the OC Transpo-VIA Rail bus-train crash in 2013.

“ESCAT members arrived to provide spiritual and emotional help for families and loved ones of those involved,” said Côté. “During difficult times, individuals need health-care professionals to speak with about the kinds of emotions they’re experiencing. With this guide, we are better prepared to provide that to them in the most comprehensive way possible.”

At the time of the crash, TOH staff chaplains worked with representatives from all faiths within the community, to ensure that resources were available for patients of all spiritual backgrounds and beliefs.

Staff chaplains worked with community leaders to develop the ESCAT Guide. Since the guide’s release in April, The Ottawa Hospital has received requests from health-care organizations all over North America, each of them looking to implement ESCAT in their own hospital. The team has also been invited to present a workshop on it at the Association of Professional Chaplains Conference in Houston, Texas.

If you would like to learn more about ESCAT or the ESCAT Guide, contact


Comment on this post

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

These volunteers turn chocolates and stuffed animals into MRI machines

We all know that a gift has the power to bring a smile to someone’s face. But did you know that the gifts you buy at our gift shops also have the power to help us buy important medical equipment? Our shops are run by a group of fundraising volunteers and staff from The Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary. Here are some other ways their efforts help make meaningful change.

Mental health professionals and paramedics team up to help people in crisis

Seven days a week, a mental health professional from The Ottawa Hospital hits the road with a paramedic from the Ottawa Paramedic Service. Together, they respond to 911 calls for mental health emergencies across the city. Social worker Cindy Gill and paramedic Scott Farrell share how the Mental Wellbeing Response Team provides quality care for patients out in the community.

Loud and proud: The Ottawa Hospital at Capital Pride 2023

“You belong! We belong! Together we are strong!” Come behind the scenes at Capital Pride 2023 to see how we celebrated with the 2SLGBTQI+ community in this super-colourful photo essay.

“Stewards of hormones”: Our Gender Diversity Specialty Clinic guides medically complex patients on their affirmation journey

Often, trans and non-binary patients struggle to find health-care providers to support them on their affirmation journey. It is even more difficult for patients with complex medical needs. That’s why we launched our Gender Diversity Specialty Clinic, one of the first of its kind in Canada.

The comfort of home: Home Dialysis Program empowers patients to live more independent lives

For people living with kidney failure, the most ideal form of dialysis treatment is done in the place where they are most comfortable—their home. Five years ago, we transformed our Home Dialysis Program, enhancing quality of life for our patients, welcoming more patients, and turning it into a model for dialysis programs across the province.

A special video message for International Women’s Day

Every year on March 8, we recognize International Women’s Day to celebrate how far we have come with equal rights and opportunities for women, and to acknowledge how far we still have left to go. This video is a short-but-sweet reminder that the women who work for our organization are driven, caring, innovative and powerful.

This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.