• Jacqueline M. Pressey

Entry #25: Losses for Your, Win!

Updated: Jan 18

Happy New Year & Welcome to the 1st Diary of a Hospital Chaplain’s Blog, new edition for 2022!

Here’s an interesting fact about hospital chaplains that you might not know about us and what we do to best serve one pastoral/spiritual care. Where I served as a hospital chaplain during my Clinical Pastoral Care Education Units training for three years, of which was tough, but I loved it. If we were assigned a unit and/or floor we sometimes attended early morning rounds with the doctors and nursing staff, as an intern we would sometimes be asked to cover a chaplain resident’s unit. This allowed us to clinically learn about you before we meet you for a patient pastoral/spiritual care consult encounter. During one of my rounds, I was asked did I have any questions to ask the patient, by a physician as they were concluding their report on a specific patient. What’s awesome about where I completed my clinicals was, they treated us as a valuable part of the medical team staff.

Rounds are when the medical team visits each inpatient as a

group to review the patient's status and care plan. Sharing your

observations and asking questions during rounds can provide:

Valuable information exchange that can affect treatment and

care planning.

Another type of rounds is when we are actually visiting you. Although, we might have a bit of insight to your medical circumstances in advance, it doesn’t necessarily give us your emotional and/or spiritual state or needs that you may require of us in that moment. We need to ask you questions so we can learn how we may be able to best help comfort you, and/or you articulate specifically what’s on your mind. Since our chaplain roll/duties is to provide you with spiritual care, we actively communicate through listening and asking you questions so we can pinpoint your area of major concern. When we enter your room, we are not in a rush to see the next patient. We give you our undivided attention, know matter how long it takes, and I literally mean, know matter how long it takes. We chitchat, ask questions, laugh, and provide small talk as introductory pleasantries all with the intention of reaching you and your intimate spiritual concerns. You lead us where your pastoral/spiritual care encounter goes. We are absolutely patient centered focused. You’re our number one prime concern when we are in that room with you and/or your loved ones, and family. Our goal is to obtain that place that you need to have addressed so that you know that you were heard and understood.

Reflection/Lesson Learned:

There have been many times where I have stayed with a patient for hours, sitting quietly at one’s bedside waiting for your moment of need. I have held your hands, wiped your tears, and, gotten something that you requested. I’ve read to you, laughed with you, and even cried with you if there was something that we shared between each other that brought us closer to one another. Your visit even sometimes brought vulnerable emotions out of me as I served you, when I could relate to your personal sufferings. Our openness and sharing are how we provide you with care. We’ve prayed for you before we met you, we’re praying for you as we are with you and talking to you. Listening to you express your journey, how you’re feeling, and your personal stories that you share with us. To me as a chaplain they are sincerely intimate treasured moment that I have been privileged to experience with you. Your vulnerable moments are sacred to me. I cherish those moments that we shared together; they are confidential moments of care. We care about you and your comfort, coping with your situation and how it’s affecting you and your healing and/or your soon approaching death.

I remember one time when I had a patient visit with a feisty single/divorced Caucasian female in her mid-70’s that needed to come to terms with slowing down her work life. She talked to me for hours about everything that she had accomplished, and that she didn’t need any help doing it. But, now she was alone facing her life changing health crisis situation. Because as she stated, she was too busy working to develop close family and friend relationships. She only had co-workers in her life, yet now she needed someone to care for her. This tough lady patient started to cry when she realized that she had made a major mistake in her life by not investing in her personal family life. Our time together took on many issues that she had to face in order to prepare for her to change and live differently.

As we continued to talk, I shared my own personal story of how I became a hospital chaplain. I told her about my life’s losses, that completely changed who I once was. Yet, the win in all of my journey was it led me into my chaplaincy calling. Chaplaincy came through me being seriously injured one day in March, 2013 teaching a dance class, my suffering/weakness. After that day when I fell, I had about 4 or 5 surgeries, it left me partially disabled and I was know longer able to be that crazy active person I once was. Granted, I had one heck of a busy schedule. But when I fell while teaching dance class, it caused me to have to change my entire lifestyle. I had to work at accepting who I had become. My normal schedule included working as a professor, school, contracts teaching, also health, fitness, and dance classes, ministry, and singing. Her countenance lit up as I shared with her that I grieved the death of who I once was for a long time.

Trying to defined spiritual health and grieving losses through aging is tough to pinpoint, because the meaning changes through one’s life span. A spiritually mature person will have faith that will grow, activate, and adapt through one’s stages of life. For healing and wholeness, one must 1st embrace the present in order to improve one’s new future. I told her I did an awful amount of crying, and I felt like my life was over for almost a year. Yet, actually in reality I had been injured and became a hospital chaplain in that same year (2013). I started serving painfully injured and hurting through hospital stays, rehab, physical therapy visit, doctor’s appointment waiting room evangelistic outreaches, smile. Every aspect of my recovery was preparation and developing experiences for comforting and developing empathy for providing pastoral/spiritual patient care. I didn’t even know that I would one day be providing them pastoral care through my places of pain. Yet for over 8 years that is what I have so gratefully been doing. With this patient after we shared, I was able to help her to develop a few steps toward accepting her current reality and to start making plans from this point on.

Happily, she agreed to call her sister while I was with her, and she started telling her about her situation and that she was in the hospital. I smiled squeezed her hand and left, so she could have privacy. I later stopped back into check on her, and she told me that her sister was coming, she lived out of state, and she would help take care of her. She was a different patient now, she had losses later in life, but she also gained a family, win. What have you lost for the win for serving others? Remember grieving can be extremely painful, yet necessary. Grieving a loss know matter what the loss is, will influence and/or change one’s thinking about what one’s next steps will be for one’s future. As chaplain’s may we continue to provide a comforting, confidential, and safe space for our patients to be able to personally share and vent through the painful struggles of their circumstances without judgement. May we each one reach one as we serve on our chaplain rounds, signing off for the WIN!

Book Recommendation:

Sullender, R.S. (1989). Losses in Later Life: A New Way of Walking

with God. Integration Books, Studies in Pastoral Psychology

Paulist Press/New York & Mahwah

Here’s a sneak preview, “Trauma Stewardship!” Until next time.

For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing, CALL!

Dr. Jacqueline M. Pressey, Chaplain

"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work by becoming Extraordinary through pursuing Excellence!"

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