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Scott & White Hospital chaplains provide more than a prayer

prayerA man has watched one of his children pass away and is watching helplessly as another clings to life. As he faces grief and hopelessness, all he wants it to be connected to his faith.

“[The family] wanted to talk to an imam (a spiritual leader of the Muslim faith),” said Scott & White chaplain, Angela Obu-Anukam. “So, I called around to find an imam who was able to come to the hospital.”

Finding a spiritual leader to provide comfort for a grieving family is not unusual for the chaplains at Scott & White. In fact, they do more than offer prayer and an encouraging word. They are essential staff members to the healthcare team.

Ms. Obu-Anukam explains what a hospital chaplain does and how they are trained.

Respect Diverse Cultures and Beliefs

“Chaplains help patients to connect with their own clergy or faith communities, which is an important aspect of Scott & White’s outreach to surrounding communities for quality healthcare,” Ms. Obu-Anukam said. “[Chaplains] are trained to respect diverse cultures, beliefs and practices of patients and families.”

Scott & White chaplains will do whatever they can to make the patient comfortable, whatever their faith tradition.

“Some people want their priests to do last rites or an anointing or baptisms or holy communions,” she said. “We are able to contact their pastors or priests that are on call and page them to come into the hospital.”

Respond to Trauma, Codes and Deaths

“A chaplain in the hospital is actually paged to all trauma pages,” Ms. Obu-Anukam said. “When they get there, they have multiple functions. They make sure that there’s a family member there. And if one is not there, they will arrange to contact one.”

Once a family member has been located, they communicate with hospital staff—doctors and nurses—to keep the patient’s next of kin up to date.

“[Chaplains] are also responsible for bringing a doctor in to answer the questions of the family members,” she said.

And if the outcome of the page is death of the patient, the chaplain will walk through the process of grief with that family.

Provide Personalized, Compassionate, Holistic Care

“Chaplains are vital in helping Scott & White to achieve is mission to ‘provide the most personalized, comprehensive, and highest quality healthcare,’” she said. “They usually spend more time with patients and contribute to the ideal of a compassionate and holistic approach to healthcare so that the patient feels valued as an individual and a human being.”

Ms. Obu-Anukam said being attentive to the needs of the patient might be just a prayer or hearing their concerns.

“Chaplains report to the pre-surgery area every morning to help relieve the fears and anxieties of those about to undergo surgery,” she said. “We help the patient understand what is going to happen.”

The chaplains also host quarterly memorial services to remember those who have died.

“Family members are invited to come back and share their grief and celebrate the life of their loved one,” Ms. Obu-Anukam said. “It provides closure for them.”

Not only do Scott & White chaplains assist patients and grieving family members, but they also find ways to help that is beyond the spiritual realm.

“Some people come into the hospital after hearing their loved one has been in an accident. They just flew from out of state and have nowhere to stay,” she said. “Sometimes we have a good Samaritan fund that we can use to help alleviate some of the stress and put them up in a hotel for a few days so they are able to contact loved ones and make arrangements.”

Assist Families to Make End-of-Life Choices

When family members have to make difficult decisions regarding end-of-life choices, Scott & White chaplains can be called on to help in the decision-making process.

“When family members want to fill out a directive or a medical power of attorney, chaplains are paged to go and help facilitate the family members.”

They help the patient’s relatives understand what the forms mean and answer any questions they may have.

Highly-Trained Members of Healthcare Team

Becoming a staff chaplain at Scott & White is similar to becoming a physician. All student chaplain must go through rigorous training and be accepted to the program sponsored by the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education.

To enter the program, you must have a bachelor’s degree. At this point you are considered a student or intern. Once you are accepted, you must complete 400 hours of training to earn one credit unit.

After completing one unit, student chaplains can either go into the residency program or become a PRN (as-needed help) and begin honing their skills.

“Some people are pastors in churches and they come in once in a while, once they have completed their one unit, and keep up their skills by being in the PRN pool.”

If student chaplains decide to continue on into the residency program, they must be enrolled in a master’s program or have already received a master’s degree.

Once resident chaplains have completed four (400-hour) credit units, they are qualified to take a national board exam to become a “board-certified” staff chaplain.

“If you’re a staff chaplain, then you’re a trained chaplain who understands the spiritual aspects of providing care at a higher level,” Ms. Obu-Anukam said. “It’s not just that you pray or go to be with [patients and their families]. You’re able to understand and assess family crises and crises within religious experiences on a deeper level.”

For more information about the chaplain program, contact Pastoral Care from 8 am to 5 pm at (254) 724-3006 or visit the Pastoral Care site.

Have you ever encountered a chaplain at Scott & White? How did they help you through a difficult time?

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Scott & White Hospital chaplains provide more than a prayer