Pastoral Care Week celebrated its 30th year last week. It’s a week set aside to honor those who provide spiritual support to others. This year’s theme was “spiritual well-being” and depicted how pastoral caregivers support others in times of challenge and ease.
But have you ever wondered what a chaplain does, particularly in the health care setting? You may have seen a chaplain in a hospital room while you were a patient or while you were visiting a loved one.
A chaplain is there to offer comfort and support to patients and families. Professional chaplains see the job as strengthening the connections that patients have with the spiritual and religious resources that are important to them, supporting them in the practices that they find meaningful, and protecting their religious freedom.
Chaplains seek to raise an awareness of the spiritual dimension of life — here in the hospital and particularly in our role on the health care team, because we are convinced that attention to it contributes to health, wholeness and human flourishing.
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Patients at Mount Nittany Medical Center are asked upon admission if they would like a clergy visit, if they have any spiritual concerns and if they have religious beliefs that affect their care, and the chaplain follows up when those needs are expressed. The chaplain and pastoral care volunteers also make regular visits throughout the hospital in order to be sure that our patients and their families are receiving emotional, spiritual and religious support. In addition, patients or family members may request a chaplain visit at any time.
Professional chaplains never promote a particular religion, but they are committed to respecting religious diversity and safeguarding patient privacy and the right to religious expression, as are all health care workers.
Professional chaplains also are skilled in talking with individuals and families about their hopes, fears and deepest values, and so provide assistance with decision-making, particularly at the end of life or when there are ethical concerns. The basic conviction that excellent health care attends to body, mind and spirit underlies everything that chaplains do.
Finally, the chaplain is here to support the staff and physicians at Mount Nittany Health. Stressful and traumatic events occur every day. The chaplain is always available to listen, reflect and offer support, in confidence.
Providing excellent pastoral care is just one way that we are working to make people healthier. Remember that you can reach out to us at any time by calling 278-4805.