Hospitals. Hospices. I call for your attention (especially in the West and Southwest).
I am a qualified chaplain, who has served in a (and one of the busiest in the nation) Level 1 Trauma Center for over a year, have served as a chaplain resident in some of the best hospitals such as Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. I was able to provide excellent high quality care to many patients in the numerous ICU’s in the Memorial Hermann Hospital: the Neurology ICU (with world class care for stroke and rehab patients), the Shock Trauma ICU, the Cardiovascular ICU, the Pediatric ICU, the Neo-Natal Intensive Care, the Medical ICU, the Cardiac Care Unit, and the Transplant ICU.
I have worked with patients whose speech is slurred from seizures and strokes and helped them find meaning through their illnesses. I have prayed with mothers of the children in our NICU, even provided baptism for the NICU babies of Catholic families. I have met with families crying, mourning, grieving the expected losses of loved ones, young and old, and helped them process those critical first stages of grief (the anger, guilt, sadness, emptiness, shock) and in some cases, helped them debrief the situation, and in other cases, helped them to identify better coping mechanisms, and in other cases, helped them find meaning in their faith and the life of their loved ones. I have helped mothers and fathers identify critical futures that will be lost because of the death of a little child, and helped elderly people review their life and interpret their lives so they could move forward with what was left of their lives. I have sat with brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and cried with them as they have been told the chilling news of loss. I have been with family members and friends during traumatic events like car accidents, seizures, stabbings, heart attacks and spent deeply powerful moments of silence with them, giving them the profound value of presence without judgment or push. I have walked the halls and initiated relationships with men and women crying, reflecting my sense of availability and triaging needs as they come. I have helped little children understand that they have lost their dad, played with a child suffering from cancer, and helped calm a child who was afraid of losing her grandmother when a Rapid was called on her. I have read Scripture with patients and families after death, recited Psalm 23 with families, sang “The Old Rugged Cross” with alzheimer’s patients who come wife awake during church hymns, helped provide the washing ritual for a deceased Muslim man, engaged a woman on the helping strength of her Buddhist faith and small statue above her child’s bed, and worked with a Muslim woman by inviting her to read and share her inspiring passages of the Koran. I love diversity, and love participating in the faith rituals of other faith groups, and my outside life from the hospital shows with interfaith participation, attending Sacred Symbols and Sacred Art in Houston, participating in the annual Interfaith Ministries dinner in Houston, and honoring the faiths through respectful worship services.
But my skills of being with patients and families are served by being grounded in good knowledge and theology. I am strongly familiar with Erikson’s stages of development, Pruyser’s care gates, Life Review. I wrote a complete project on the role of guilt in the hospital- in parents, family systems, patients, institutions, and faith- and the numerous strategies and perspectives to understand and care for those struggling with guilt and used my own deeply personal history of guilt and grace. I am skilled at being able to be amongst a crisis situation and keep my head cool and know just what to do- in essence, having the calm to understand the stages of grief and how anger or bargaining or disbelief all play a role and can be allowed by hurting people. I am aware of the roles of guilt, of grace, or repentance, of fear, of anxiety, of trust in the hospital setting. I am well versed in future stories and how the future makes such a significant impact on how we perceive both spiritually and emotionally the past and the present. I spend a lot of time with children and know and implement the practice of concreteness, of letting them set the agenda, making meaning through play, the cyclical nature of childhood grief, the presence of child guilt, the power of imagination, and getting on the same physical level during conversation and play. I also value the presence of the team as part of the knowledge and assessment in ministry and pastoral care: the social worker, the case manager, the nurse, the physician, the patient care assistant, the therapists. I value what each brings to the table in caring and valuing every patient and family because in each our voices we can understand families and bring appropriate concerns and needs that help us be not only healers physically but healers spiritually and emotionally- holistic care! And I treasure moments of interdisciplinary team care- my interdisciplinary meetings are places where the voice of the minister must be heard as well, since it is not a passive place of reception but of active participation and using my unique assessment skills to make great progress with each of these patients and their loved ones.
But I am not a chaplain for families and patients alone. I care for staff a lot. I participated in a project in the Children’s Center at our hospital to visit as many of our new patients as possible to help with lower customer service scores, and those scores were raised, which made the staff job easier with better rewards from higher customer service. I value every interaction with a staff member as a ministry tool- a chance to give them five minutes of attention that they deserve. I care to learn about them, to provide empathic listening, an open sense of humor, and a willingness to openly and verbally treasure their work as sacred hands doing sacred work of helping and healing, even when there is death or crisis. After difficult losses, I always stop in sometime after to check on those nurses and provide them space to debrief, cry, open up their hearts, and acknowledge the grief involved with losing someone you care for. After really difficult losses for my unit, I led a Critical Incident Debriefing Session and helped our unit to process as a whole and just to reflect on what these losses mean and then to help them renew their efforts at self care since those are the tools that protect our hearts and keep us fresh and healing back at the job. To that end, I led efforts to provide homemade cookies and refreshments at regular intervals for staff, a chance for them to come for a five to ten minute break and refresh themselves and to simply hear that chaplaincy valued their work. I am very proud of my staff work- I maintain very good relationships with staff because I value every interaction and because I want to know them- not just the info about a patient. I love patients and families, but I love my staff and I think I do it well.
I am a good chaplain- yes a young chaplain too. I am a good chaplain and I still and always will have room to grow. In fact, my youth and room to grow will take me from being a very good chaplain to a great chaplain someday. My room for growth reflects a chance to still learn how to be better, to still learn how to reach more people, to connect more during crisis, to be molded even further by a great hospital or hospice. Nonetheless, I come starting with great skills in trauma, crisis, and pediatrics. I come with a love for caring for staff and for working with staff. I come with expectations that I want to participate in something great. I want to be respected as a growing chaplain with great skills who has been trained and readied at the best places, and now one who works for some of the greatest hospitals and/or hospices. I want that to become reality. Will you allow me to do so?