During my son Cullen’s pulmonary hypertension and heart-lung transplant, I got the impression that hospitals are trying to treat the whole person – body, mind and spirit.
For the past 13 years, he has been treated in four hospitals in two states, and each facility has offered pastoral services and / or a quiet place for prayer, spiritual healing, and meditation.
For example, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Stanford has a beautiful sanctuary, healing gardens and outdoor spaces. Patients, family members, caregivers, and medical staff of all faiths can go there to pray, meditate, worship, or just enjoy some quiet time away from the hospital.
In order to accommodate special diets and to respect treatments that various beliefs say are not allowable, patients are often asked about their religious preference at hospital registration. It also helps organize appropriate pastoral services for patients and families who might benefit.
Hospital chaplains are available to offer prayers and sacraments and read scriptures from the Bible, Torah, or Quran. They can also serve as a listening ear or provide spiritual, mental, or emotional advice and comfort upon request.
Father David Klein, Vicar Justice for the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey and former hospital chaplain, poses for a picture. (Courtesy David Klein)
A family friend and a 31-year Roman Catholic priest, Father David Klein is currently the Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Camden Tribunal but also has nine years of experience as a hospital chaplain.
In an email interview, Ms. Klein shared what it is like to serve as a chaplain and how he has personally helped many who have asked for his presence.
He wrote: “When I was serving as the official hospital chaplain, I saw the hospital and everyone in it as my ‘church’. As a result, everyone in it was my responsibility on a spiritual level. Every time a chaplain was called and none of the non-Catholic chaplains were available, I offered my services. “
He stated that people’s needs in crisis are essentially the same.
“They want someone to listen to their story and respond appropriately to their needs. As a Catholic chaplain, of course, I also gave the power of our sacraments to patients who asked for it. When non-Catholic patients were not interested in my presence, I did my best to contact another chaplain or their own pastor. “
Ms. Klein described pastoral care primarily as a service of presence.
“Just being with the patients, their families, and even the hospital staff is the most important service I have provided. Often there was little else I could do other than tell them that I was available. A good counselor listens to what the patient does not say. Helping a patient, family, or co-worker articulate what they often don’t understand can be a great comfort. “
Ms. Klein had a discussion with patients, letting her know that God’s love would accompany her through her difficult transition period, whether it was poor health, disability, or death.
“Most families want to know how the church feels about end-of-life issues. You will also try to get the chaplain to make that decision for you, but a good one will not be included in this discussion. Pastors should simply state the position of the church and then support the family in each of their decisions. Hospital staff will also involve the chaplain in end-of-life conferences to share the teachings of the Church so that they may know how to lead a family faced with such difficult choices. “
Ms. Klein admitted that sometimes being silent with a patient or his family is the only thing a chaplain can do.
“This enables the patient or family to control the flow of conversation at a time when they have little or no control over something else.”
I asked Ms. Klein how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the pastoral services.
“In most hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities, priests were not allowed to serve patients unless the chaplain was a staff member. Chaplains and pastors were very frustrated with the inability to be present with Catholics who died without the sacrament of the sick. Hopefully that will start to change. “
Ms. Klein shared that his most difficult time as a chaplain was seeing people reject the Church’s healing opportunities because they were too angry, bitter, or hurt.
“It was very painful and I had to be aware that it was not directed at me personally.”
Dealing with people in crisis and trying to help them get their lives back on track was what Ms. Klein found most rewarding.
“Not to restore what it was, as that is not possible. But helping people to overcome a major life crisis and become stronger, happier and more fully functional people of faith cannot be described in words. “
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is a pure news and information site about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, or diagnosis treatment. This content is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or advice treatment. Always contact your doctor or other qualified health care provider with questions about any medical condition. Never disregard or hesitate to seek professional medical advice because you have read something on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company BioNews and are designed to stimulate discussions about problems related to pulmonary hypertension.
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