“Chaplains are a unique part of the medical team,” Christine McNeal, senior staff chaplain and coordinator for Faith Community Relations at Carle BroMenn Medical Center and Carle Eureka Hospital said. “They are generally the one person a patient doesn’t have to see.”
Yet, when the time comes, McNeal said they are there for those of all faiths or those with no faith tradition. “It’s about being present and acknowledging the needs of another person.”
Spiritual Care team members are able to provide support for patients and their family members during some of the most scary or exciting moments in a person’s life. “As spiritual care providers, we have time to sit with patients at times when doctors or nurses do not,” Paul Payway, Spiritual Care manager for Carle Foundation Hospital said. “We can help a patient process what they are experiencing, spend time listening to them, and help them with end-of-life decisions or discussions.”
This extra time with patients also allows chaplains opportunities to find out what is most important to patients and what comforts them. “We try to connect them with what they hold most dear,” Mollie Ward, director of Spiritual Care at Carle BroMenn Medical Center and Carle Eureka Hospital, said. “Our role is much broader than just religious care.”
Spiritual Care team members strive to be available when patients need them most. Chaplains are always on call at Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle BroMenn Medical Center, Carle Cancer Institute Normal and Carle Eureka Hospital. They aim to be available for patients within 15 minutes of a call.
A hospice chaplain’s work takes place in a different setting that is outside the hospital. Hospice chaplains visit patients’ homes, nursing homes and other skilled nursing facilities through the region from Bloomington to Danville to Olney.
The entire Spiritual Care team includes full-time chaplains, chaplains who are available as needed, hospice spiritual care staff and students who are studying to be hospital chaplains. The team’s background includes clinically trained spiritual care leaders endorsed by various faith groups.
“It’s an amazing group of people dedicated through body, mind and spirit,” McNeal said.
The Spiritual Care team members also work closely with faith leaders in communities to provide comfort and support for patients. For example, they make sure faith leaders have information and badges needed to visit parishioners and connect patients with their faith leaders when requested.
For example, one of the chaplains at Carle Foundation Hospital conducted a funeral by Zoom since the family members were from Germany, Payway said. Other chaplains help patients connect to religious services and observations using Zoom or other online technology and add to the spiritual care that religious leaders provide their members.
Thoughtful consideration of other beliefs on site means including plastic prayer rugs in the Carle BroMenn chapel for Muslim staff, patients and families and working with the local Imam to have Qurans available, McNeal said.
“We have prayer cards made specifically for patients who are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or more ‘spiritual but not religious,’” she said. Small prayer books are available for our Baha'i friends, along with the Book of Mormon and other resources. For infection control, once given, the resources remain with the patient.
Payway said similar materials are available in the chapel at Carle Foundation Hospital which happens to face east, a direction faced toward in prayer by more than one religion. He is also planning to have materials in the hospital chapel for the upcoming Hanukkah celebration.
“As hospice chaplains, we work closely with pastors in the homes and facilities of patients to make sure the patient’s and family’s spiritual needs are being taken care of,” Deborah Slack, Hospice chaplain, said. “We also provide spiritual support for our patients with no churches and pastors.”
While the primary focus of chaplains is on serving patients, the Spiritual Care team also is available to help Carle employees. For example, Ward said they offer bereavement support to team members.
Supporting basic needs
The Spiritual Care team has programs that help patients who need help with clothing, food, transportation and other basic necessities. For example, anytime the hospice team is aware of food insecurity, Slack said they will take a bag of groceries to the patient.
The Spiritual Care team at Carle BroMenn Medical Center provides food baskets in the chapel. They also have a compassion closet with clothes for patients to wear home if their clothes are soiled or damaged.
“It dates back to 10 years ago when a chaplain noticed a patient sitting in the emergency room waiting area in paper scrubs,” Ward said. “She decided that was not OK and did something about it.”
Spiritual Care team members work closely with other community faith leaders to identify and support community needs. For example, McNeal works with the faith leaders in Bloomington-Normal on the need for projects such as the Mobile Health Clinic.
“It’s really quite life-giving to be in conversations with so many people of different faiths knowing we all care deeply about the well-being of the community,” McNeal said.
Categories: Culture of Quality