Monday, January 06, 2014

What It Is Like

It is wonderful. Being a hospital chaplain, that is.

My work began in the middle of December when I was asked to find five dates when I could work from 2 until 10 p.m., shadowing an experienced chaplain, and learning the particularities of the hospital. Finding 40 hours in the last two weeks of December was a challenge, but we managed. The men that I worked with were patient and kind (well, what would you expect?) and taught me well. 

I wasn't concerned about the work that I would be doing; I'd done that before and felt competent. My biggest worry, as it happened, was one that would take care of itself: Finding my way around the humongous, state-of-the-art emergency trauma center! There appeared to be no logic whatsoever as to how it was laid out. I was just going to have to go there and do it and look for patterns and clues.

My mentors believed me to be ready, and very recently I worked my first solo shift from 3 p.m. on one day until 3 p.m. the next day. There is an on-call room and it is anticipated that eight hours of the shift will be sleep hours, though it is not anticipated that those eight hours would be consecutive!

The hospital chaplain has a variety of visit types and there is plenty of time spent doing documentation and reporting. On this first shift I did all of these different things:
  • Responded to one Level I and three Level II traumas. This must be done with all due speed and my role is to work with whoever I can to identify next-of-kin for the trauma patient, and then to contact that individual and ask him to come to the hospital. Sometimes the family member has come in with the patient; other times the family is contacted by the nursing home sending the patient; and sometimes I need to prowl through the patient's cell phone looking for "Mom" and make that call.
  • Supported a family member immediately after a patient's (not unanticipated) demise.
  • Assisted a patient who wanted to make a Living Will and select a Health Care Power of Attorney.
  • Arranged for a priest to provide Sacrament of the Sick to a patient nearing the end of his life.
  • Supported a patient (and her husband) who had come to the hospital with what she thought was a very minor problem only to discover she had a far-advanced major diagnosis.
  • Visited numerous patients in their rooms upon referral from the nurses and the previous chaplain.
Another night I might be asked to perform a Baptism for an unstable newborn, to sit with a dying patient who has no family, to be with a woman who had just become a widow due to her husband's sudden cardiac arrest. The beeper is with me constantly, as is the telephone, and the chaplain's number is intentionally an easy one to remember.

I found one wonderful nurse in the ER who eased me along with a difficult family identification. I discovered that the staff in the triage section are good-natured and amazingly helpful with all kinds of questions. I learned that breakfast and lunch are the best meals in the cafeteria and that the dryness of the institution requires lots of chapstick and cups of water

When I was working on the final trauma of my shift, very tired from too few, too short segments of sleep, all at once I realized that I wasn't actually thinking about where I was going. My feet had learned the layout of the ER, while my brain really had not!

I love it. I absolutely love it.

16 comments:

Karla said...

How exciting to begin this journey of love! I will continue to pray for your strength to help those when they are at their darkest hour.

Love ya!

Jean Burke said...

What a difference you are making for these folks at a very difficult time in their lives. Kudos to you for accepting this challenge. God bless....

anne bebbington said...

Oh Nancy what an incredible variety of tasks to undertake and what a difference doing them must make to those on the receiving end - keep up the good work as that vital link in the chain of healthcare

Janet O. said...

It takes a strong person to be able to handle all of those emotional situations with grace. They are so lucky to have found that in you. You will be a blessing in the lives of many individuals and families as you offer comfort and spiritual strength in tough times. Your love of the work radiates from this post--wonderful! I am very happy for you, Nancy!

Quiltdivajulie said...

So happy to read the fulfillment in your soul . . . you are glowing!

Suzan Oxenreider said...

So happy for you, Nancy.

suz said...

So happy for you! This is definitely your calling and it sounds like you've found the right place. Sending you prayers as you move forward in this new place in your life.

howdidIgethere said...

You are blessed to be a blessing to all you encounter. And we are blessed to know you...

Denise in PA said...

What a fascinating peek into the day in the life of a hospital chaplain! Thank you so much for sharing this. I just know that you are wonderful at this job!

Lori said...

You are going to be suited perfectly for this important job!

Ray said...

Thrilled to read this!!! Your calling me thinks,

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Fascinating read, a former ER worker myself, a lot of these scenes evoke memories of that time. Losing my mom yesterday puts me in need of someone like you.

Judi said...

As I read this post, I can just picture you doing this work with immense grace. They are very lucky to have you as part of the team.

LizA. said...

It warms my heart to hear how much you are loving this new path you are journeying down. This is not the type of job just anybody can do or would want to do. Bless you on your journey and I hope it continues to be rewarding for you.

Barbara Anne said...

I am so pleased for you in your return role as chaplain in this new setting and for the many people and patients who you have helped and will help!

That is what I loved about being a nurse. It's all about the people who need a listening ear, a quiet presence, prayer, a hug, a tissue for happy or sad tears, or a hand to hold.

Blessings on you and this ministry.

Hugs!

Leland said...

I, too, am so happy for you that you have found just the right place to work. Blessings!