This year Spiritual Care Week is October 20-26.
A Day in the Life of a Hospital Chaplain
The day begins with ICU rounds. I love being part of various inter-disciplinary rounds. We all look at patients through our own specialty’s lens. While others listen for lab values and medication changes, I’m tuned in to family issues, pending decisions, distress – helpful insights for visits later.
I check the computer for consults from clinical team members for grief, despair, ad-vance directives, hopelessness, fear, or local clergy connections. Sometimes, requests arrive by phone or in the hallways. I‘m always grateful when team members reach out, because they are the front line and see issues we can address. This week, a nurse consulted us because a patient’s family member had just died elsewhere. Her grief naturally impacted her physical state. Tending to spiritual pain helps with overall health.
There are ongoing office tasks: planning presentations, training new volunteers, pre-paring for the Ethics Committee, budgeting. But then the phone rings, a patient has died, and the family needs us. Either a chaplain or a spiritual care volunteer is always on call for these kinds of emergencies, so someone will go, day or night. Today, I put the tasks aside and go.
Staff support is a huge part of my role. Even our awesome team members need sup-port, too, when they have a loss, a crisis, or a personal struggle. Though not a licensed counselor, a chaplain is a good listener with spiritual insights who keeps confidences. It’s hard to measure, but I do believe a few moments of compassion can refresh our team members.
Sometimes, I get to address new hires, teach self-care to new nurses, or speak in the community. Generally quiet by nature, I become a chatterbox when
asked about the work I love, in the hospital I love. My job is meaningful, because I connect with people at their most vulnerable. They, in turn, teach me about life.