Entry #10: Clinicals “r” Deep Places!
Updated: Sep 12
The clinical pastoral care education unit process is more than a personal notion and sacrifice. One pursues pastoral care clinicals to develop spiritual care skills. Interns & Residents embark on this exciting in-depth journey of discovery to become better spiritual care providers through a hands-on approach called, “clinicals”. Through clinicals are the methods in which we are trained. “Clinical pastoral education (CPE) is a combination of professional education (30%) and hands-on experience (70%), providing spiritual care to patients, families and staff members in multi-faith clinical setting.” Through supervised encounters, CPE students learn to work with people who are vulnerable, in a health crisis and often in trauma or pain. This intense involvement, along with reflection on the interactions and feedback from peers and supervisors, enables one to develop new insight into oneself personally and professionally (pastoral identity),” (Cedars-Sinai acpe.edu site, 2020).
Yet, encompassed within the clinical pastoral care educational journey is the process of personally developing and examining one’s personal life and the depths of one’s experiences in which one may pull from when providing pastoral care. What I learned early in my 1st year was nothing was off limits for discussion. Our instructor’s job was to dig deep into our own personal places of struggles, injuries, traumas, and pains to help us identified how we would possibly utilize them during our pastoral care ministering visitations. During my 1st encounter, I found it to be extremely difficult, uncomfortable, and intrusive into my personal life and memories. But, once I was with a patient, it wasn’t difficult for me at all to share my personal experience with them as a method of connecting and providing an attempt at understand and identifying with them and their sufferings. It was a means of providing compassion, empathy, and transparency which becomes the gateway to making a patient feel comfortable with sharing their true an authentic feelings with total strangers (the chaplains).
I remember once, I had a patient visit with an African American male in his late 60’s and his wife. It was one of my 1st patient visit when I was shadowing a Resident Chaplain. I entered the room, thinking that I was going to be observing that Resident Chaplain. I entered the room, we introduced ourselves to the both of them. Since I entered the room 1st, I was closest to the patient. He was diagnosed with a terminal cancerous tumor in the lumbar section of his back. I could tell that he was in a tremendous amount of pain. So, I asked him about his pain level while he was looking down. Then I said that I remembered the nurses always asking me what my back-pain range number was when I had back surgery several years earlier. I stated that their pain scale was 0 to 10 which was a joke. I stated that the pain scale needed to be in a range of 0 to 20 and then I could’ve responded.
When I stated my experience with back pain, the patient looked up at me, straight in my eyes with tears running down his face. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it and said, 12 as his body was shaking. This was the pastoral entry gate to be able to minister to him and his wife. They opened up to us, he asked me many personal questions, of which I answered without hesitation. If me sharing my painful experience comforted him, then so be it. He asked for our contact information. Normally, I wouldn’t have given mine out, but this couple wanted to be in contact with me as they journeyed through a second opinion since his doctors had told them that there was nothing more they could do for him, but to keep him comfortable. For the next month, his wife kept me posted on his condition and progress. We talked, and texted many times. And then it stopped when he passed. I was there to be a ministering yoke of presence to them as long as they needed.
The Word of God states, “take my yoke?” “Imagine yourself yoked with Jesus Christ. With his help and with him doing the heavy lifting, you could accomplish anything that was in harmony with him and his teachings,” (Quora Inc, 2020).
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am
meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, KJV).
What does a yoke symbolize in the Christian faith tradition? “The yoke Jesus refers to is this: It is a kind of harness that is used for oxen to get them to pull a cart or farming equipment. Typically, one yoke for two oxen. The best usage of yoke by Jesus is: Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” In this pastoral visit I became yoked to this couple during the patients last days. This is what clinical training provides. Opportunities to go to deep, deep places within yourself for serving others out of your own painful experiences and memories. The deep places provide a strong foundation for developing compassion, empathy and relating to the sufferings of others. In that moment with the patient I didn’t care about sharing my personal journey or information. What mattered most was to comfort the patient, to reach the patient so that he could openly share his emotional state, of which he did. It was his pain that connected us and it enabled him to share his intimate vulnerability about how he was actually feeling. May we all be willing to become a yoke of intercession for others when needed. Take up your YOKE and follow His lead!
Here’s a sneak preview, “The Life of Pi!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing Call!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your
work with becoming extraordinary, through pursuing EXCELLENCE!"
Quora Inc, (2020). Retrieved 9/6/2020 from https://www.quora.com/What-does-Yoke-