Pastoral Care Week is October 22-28, and Regional One Health is proud to honor a team of chaplains that is available around-the-clock to support patients, their families, and employees.
Our chaplains provide services in a wide variety of religious beliefs, and meet a diverse set of needs at the hospital.
Regional One Health is also involved in educating the pastoral care professionals of the future through an onsite residency program.
A hospital is a place of many emotions: worry and hope, pain and joy, frustration and relief. A highly-trained, compassionate group of Regional One Health employees is available around the clock to help patients, their loved ones, and employees navigate those emotions.
During Pastoral Care Week October 22-28, Regional One Health is recognizing its team of chaplains for the important role they play in patient care and the patient experience. The Pastoral Care team represents eight religions and also partners with the community to provide resources in line with the over 30 distinct religions from around the world.
Dwight Douglas, Manager of Pastoral Care, and his team of seven chaplains provide emotional, religious and ritual support based on a variety of belief systems.
“Spiritual support is important to quality of care and the patient experience,” Douglas said. “We need to offer spiritual and emotional care along with medical care, because that lets us provide hope and healing for our patients.”
At Regional One Health, which provides level-1 trauma care and acute burn care, specialist services, labor & delivery care, a NICU, and much more, there many situations that benefit from a chaplain’s support.
For trauma patients, Pastoral Care responds automatically. “We’re right there in the trauma bay with the care team to offer emotional support,” Douglas said. “In a lot of cases, we’re asked to liaise with the family to keep them updated and provide support.”
The chaplains are also called in for every patient admitted to Regional One Health’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital. The visit patients twice a week to encourage them to do the challenging therapy that helps them heal and regain independence after an illness or injury.
“When the body has encouragement, something happens to the will,” Douglas said. “We offer hope and encouragement that if you put the work in, you can get better. We walk by the patient’s side and encourage them not to give up.”
Any provider can seek Pastoral Care to support a family or patient. For chaplains, that may mean sitting in when a physician has a difficult conversation about a patient’s prognosis, saying a prayer for a patient heading into a procedure, or being there at discharge to connect a patient with ongoing support through the local faith community.
Beyond working with patients and their loved ones, Pastoral Care is available for employees. “The theme for this year’s Pastoral Care Week is ‘Chaplaincy and Mental Health: It’s Healthy to Get Help,’” Douglas noted. “Everyone can get compassion fatigue or struggle with emotional health. We want to raise awareness that staff can come to us for help.”
With their diverse scope of work, chaplains need to be able to provide care for a wide variety of emotions. That involves both a compassionate heart and a robust, specialized education.
“You have to have a listening ear – be slow to speak and quick to hear,” Douglas said. “You have to understand what the needs are and how to accommodate them. That means taking a compassionate approach from day one.”
Chaplains rely on a wealth of education and training. Health care chaplains must have a minimum of a master’s degree, and they train during a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education residency. They also take a board certification exam.
Douglas said the residency focuses on taking an ecumenical, or interdenominational, approach and understanding how to deal with the heightened emotions of a health care setting. “Chaplains in health care, especially at a Level-1 Trauma Center, need to be trained to deescalate emotions, understand level of care goals, and be a liaison and advocate for families,” he explained.
Regional One Health is such a firm believer in the value of Pastoral Care that it is even training a new generation of health care chaplains. Douglas said the hospital offers a one-of-a-kind hybrid Clinical Pastoral Education program where clergy do classroom work online and do their clinical rotations at Regional One Health.
Currently, there are five students, including a long-time volunteer at the hospital and two PRNs who are attending with support from the Regional One Health Foundation. “It’s an opportunity to grow the chaplain service here and expand our footprint in the community,” Douglas said.
The program is rigorous – “You really find out if you have the passion for it,” Douglas said – but well worth it.
“The goal for any patient is to help them get back to life, and we’re proud to play a role in that,” he said. “The greatest moments are when patients remember us and tell us, ‘I really appreciate you being there for me and praying for me.’ We know what medicine can do – but often, patients and families also need hope, and that’s what we provide.”