Entry #24: The Moral of the STORY!
I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a movie star, singer in Hollywood or an astronaut. As a child playing with my friends, I never heard any of my childhood friend’s or myself state while we were playing that we wanted to grow up and become a Chaplain. Did Chaplains even exist back then? Welcome to the moral of the story of the making of a hospital chaplain. The term hospital chaplain originated from the Christian faith tradition in the 19th century. “In the simplest and most profound sense, pastoral care has been defined from a Christian perspective as "the attempt to help others, through words, acts, and relationships, to experience as fully as possible the reality of God's presence and love in their lives" (Holst, p. 46).
Historically, pastors have extended their care to a wide range of personal needs and concerns, from struggles of faith, doubt, moral failure, and problems of conscience to marriage and family conflict and the suffering involved in illness, tragedy, and death. In Christian care, the historic, ritualized "means of grace"—sacrament, scripture, prayer— continue to be important resources of pastoral care, especially in situations of crisis (e.g., dying). At the root of their care, pastoral caregivers help persons find the kind of faith and value commitments that can sustain, enrich, and give redemptive meaning to their lives, and "to experience as fully as possible the reality of God's presence and love in their lives" (Holst, p. 46). Yet, as chaplains we have to carry out this pastoral/spiritual moral act of service quickly in the midst of a personal crisis and/or under medical duress with strangers desperately seeking healing resolve of their situation by any means necessary. Not one child, nor friend, or myself even knew what a chaplain was, to want to become a hospital chaplain.
Within the role and function of a chaplain, there is an inner moral compass of ethical behavior and patient confidentiality as we fulfill our roles and duties to provide interfaith pastoral/spiritual care to all. Included within one serving patients, we also may have to serve and support all aspect of the hospital staff. Many don’t know that chaplains will be faced with consoling and comforting doctors, nurses, and administers whenever needed. I will never forget the time I had to set up a private grieving conference meeting in the middle of the night for several of the NICU doctors and nursing staff when they lost one of the babies. They cried, held each other as I served them, basically I provided them with a space to have a personal memorial service. This is all apart of the moral duties of the hospital chaplain’s story that one carries as we serve others.
My own personal journey toward becoming a hospital chaplain began at age 13 years old when I became a hospital volunteer, back then it was called a Candy striper. My duties consisted of, visiting patients, serving their meals, getting items that they needed, reading to them, and helping the nurses with tending their patients. Sometimes I had to dump a bed pan or two, I hated doing that, but I did it anyway. Little did I know that I would become a hospital chaplain as a calling/ministry later in life.
There were other characteristic that I developed as I grew up. Becoming a loyal and trusted sister and friend. I had to work hard at learning to keep a secret, patient confidentiality skills emerged from that. Even when my own personal friends were hurting or had been in a fight. I knew not to say to much, but just to be there for them and listen. Believe me sometimes that was tough for me, because I was a talker. There is a moral compass within chaplaincy, one must be discreet and careful not to offend, but to show unbiased, non-judgmental empathy and support to others regardless of religious preference or none at all. We have had extensive training through Clinical Pastoral Care Education Units (CPE) in this area to grow empathically and sympathetically. Yet, we're still very much human and we absolutely feel your pain in that vulnerable moment of trauma and crisis, but we must serve you by managing your needs, so we process our feelings for other's situations later after we have helped and/or served you and your family.
Required for us as hospital chaplain interns, we have our weekly group counseling/debriefings that were built into our coursework once per week. And individual counseling once every two weeks to help us process some of the situations that we may have encountered during our clinicals and/or overnight on-calls. We also presented cases twice a month which were called a verbatim. That allowed us to be questioned and critiqued on how we handled a patient visit or code. I called presenting a verbatim, the hot seat during my training years. These were all necessary, meaningful moments that were extremely important to developing skills needed for becoming an effective pastoral/spiritual care provider. We learned to serve others through suffering, by gaining experience, training, education, and understanding our own personal suffering to pull from to utilize to help one through their own crisis moments. Closing with my own Christian faith tradition, a scripture from the Bible which states:
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy
statutes. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me
understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
(Psalm 119: 71 & 73, KJV)
The moral of a Hospital Chaplain’s story is that we learn, train, develop, and grow to serve others in excellence through the things that we have possibly personally suffered ourselves, and the lessons learned from those experiences, too. Know that WE CARE!
Here’s a sneak preview, “See you on Rounds!” Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing, CALL!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
Encyclopedia.com (2019). Pastoral Care And Healthcare Chaplaincy. Retrieved
November 30, 2021 from https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-
Holst, Lawrence E., ed. 1985. Hospital Ministry: The Role of the Chaplain Today.
New York: Crossroad.