When you or a loved one faces a life-changing diagnosis, illness or injury, the experience can trigger a flood of emotions. You may ask yourself, “Why?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” Spiritual care in a health care setting gives you someone to talk, oftentimes a chaplain, who can help you process those feelings.
Everyone’s journey is unique. The chaplain listens and allows patients and families an opportunity to tell their story or share concerns. “This approach helps me meet the person where they are,” said Chris Schwanz, Marshfield Clinic Health System Spiritual Services manager. “We want them to feel that they are not alone, and they have the opportunity to feel heard and understood.”
Serving all beliefs
Caring for a person’s spiritual beliefs is like many other areas of health care, it’s not one size fits all. Spiritual caregivers provide a compassionate presence to patients, families and health care workers. They serve everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.
Chaplains do not preach at or try to persuade. Their goal is to respect everyone and provide support. They also make efforts to accommodate all religions and faiths. At most Marshfield Clinic Health System hospitals there is a quiet, spiritual place for meditation or prayer.
“In Marshfield, the pandemic has challenged us to be creative with how we can still utilize the chapel,” Schwanz said. “In place of the traditional Christian services we hosted pre-pandemic, we have Music Therapists who are broadcast live from the chapel throughout the hospital’s closed circuit TV system.”
Another challenge posed by the pandemic have been the Visitor Restrictions. Thanks to Telehealth staff, Chaplains have been equipped to use virtual means to connect clergy with their hospitalized members as well as a patient to his or her family. Two area Roman Catholic priests have also been trained and equipped with the appropriate COVID-19 PPE to respond to requests for the Sacrament of the Sick.
“These changes to how we provide spiritual care during the pandemic has not altered our striving to provide ecumenical resources,” Schwanz said. “We are here to respect and care for all people as to their spiritual needs. If we are not able to provide those needs, we do all we can to reach out to those who can.”
Role on health care teams
Spiritual care isn’t limited to religious rites and rituals. Spiritual Services staff work with patients, families and health care providers on the intensive care units, palliative care, oncology, in emergencies and end of life situations. In emergencies, they contact loved ones as soon as possible and explain the situation. The chaplain will stay with families until they can connect with the care team and their loved one.
Chaplains are resources for health care workers, too. Health care teams work daily in a high-stress environment. Spiritual Services’ goal is to help workers process thoughts and emotions so they are less likely to bring the stress of the day home with them.
The pandemic has engaged Spiritual Services in providing weekly Spiritual Resiliency Support Sessions which are presented via Skype and also recorded for viewing at any time. Spiritual Services in Marshfield have also been providing every weekday One Minute Mindfulness Moments which are broadcast overhead throughout all our System hospitals. These are intended to provide staff as well as patients a brief moment to pause and reflect on the positive and what all of us can still be thankful for during the pandemic challenges.