It's a Long Story . . . Part Three
No longer a full-time seminarian, all I knew was that I still believed I was called to hospital chaplaincy. Part-time medical transcription was placating the demands of the checkbook. The way to do pastoral care in hospital was to do more CPE. I was accepted into a learning group at a different inner city hospital where for an academic year I spent parts of two days week in group work and floor work, this time covering the kidney transplant and oncology floors. I learned a lot more.
At the end of that year, I applied to and was selected for another part-time CPE unit back at the first hospital. The group was, again, diverse, and I learned more and more about hospital ministry and about myself as I spent two days each week and on-call every Thursday night. I began to branch out -- in addition to the floors I was assigned and the on-call in the ER/Trauma Center, I spent time with exhausted, drained medical staff and more time with families of very sick people. I well remember the day that a Mafia kingpin was brought into the ER. He passed away within moments of his arrival, and I spent much of that afternoon with his bewildered and immaculate wife and several men in suits whose connection with the deceased remained unclear. I didn't ask a lot of questions. One day the President was coming to Philadelphia and a trauma bay was kept at the ready along with a blood supply; fortunately, they were never needed.
A second unit followed back-to-back with the first and at the end of that time I had completed four units and much of the S.T.M. degree.
Six months or so later, I found myself at loose ends. I was close to the end of my studies and was no longer in a hospital setting. At-home medical transcription was lonely work. When a telephone call came from the school where I had worked before going to seminary, a call telling me that the head of school was without an assistant and would I like to return, I accepted the offer. I had not lost the feeling that hospital chaplaincy was where I was supposed to be, but it seemed impossible, so I closed that door and embraced Quaker education.