Paul C. Edwards
WJ, you have noted what I’ve said to myself so many times, that we have to be persistent and never give up in our quest to inform and educate.
As far as Dina’s other questions go:-
3) I agree that every healthcare professional should have some training in recognizing spiritual care needs. I still firmly believe that the “history-taking” should be left up to the “professionals”, i.e. chaplains. Since our new EMR (Electronic Medical Record) software has been implemented, (a little over a year now), that part of things has been nothing but a nightmare. I ask the staff how comfortable do they think their patients would be if I walked into their rooms and ask them if they want Lantis or some alternate diabetic med. They’d probably decline to answer or decline my offer because they’d be thinking, “He’s no doctor/nurse. What does he know about Insulin and it’s effects, etc.?” Or, “I don’t feel comfortable discussing that with a chaplain/non-medical person.” I’ve seen too many examples where the nursing staff ask questions, as someone in this class noted, and they are given one response (albeit a negative one), yet when I stop by or the priest visits, we are warmly received and we can engage in meaningful ministry.
4) That has always been a challenge, even more so, now that my facility decided not to replace my boss 10 years ago and I became solo by default. As you can imagine, being always on-call (except early Saturday mornings through all-day Sunday) does not give one much time to “disengage”. Nonetheless, I love computers – repairing, building them, you name it. So, I always have “projects” going on. That takes my mind away from the stressors that get triggered when one is constantly “on-call”. When the weather is conducive, I love to be outdoors, doing yard work, gardening and walking my dog. I really don’t care to be outdoors in the winter. (I don’t consider shoveling snow part of self-care!) Oh, I also plan time away (like next week) when I intentionally disengage and do nothing that comes close to work! This leads me to my next comments below.
5) The video – I think there could have been more time to explore the whole business of burn-out vs. compassion fatigue among caregivers. I see that as a growing trend, as demands for outcome-oriented results increase and cost-driven models are the order of the day. I want to think that I am not dealing with compassion-fatigue on a personal level but I know I have had more days when it is clear I am tired and feel like I have nothing left in the tank and need to move on to something else that is not draining my emotional and spiritual energies.
Chris’ article cemented something I have always been core to my beliefs and practice. He said, “While in hospital I realized that as a patient, I count on my spiritual caregivers to take the initiative to help me have some necessary conversations with myself and with my family. I count on them to help me recognize resources I have available to me, resources that I may be overlooking or minimizing.” That is what, I believe, critically distinguishes trained chaplains from others – the art/gift of walking alongside the patients and affirming or helping patients discover the resources available to them on whatever journey or stage they might be on. A good chaplain, in my view, is not afraid to take the initiative to have those difficult conversations and be an advocate for the patient when the situation warrants. Of course, that comes with some risks, and one does have to establish some basic relationship with the patient before diving headlong into deep waters.
I guess that’s what I like best about a community hospital (the setting I am currently in). Unlike others where I have served (e.g. a level one trauma center), this setting allows the chaplain to build relationships over time. So, the interactions become more natural upon successive visits.