Human Resources | News Article

Friday, June 2, 2017

Reflection: The value of offering spiritual care

Recently I was doing chaplain visits on my assigned floor at the Johnson City Medical Center. I stopped to talk to a couple of students from a local university who are doing their internship at the hospital. They were taking a break in one of family/doctor conference rooms.


They were international students who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith, and didn’t know what a “pastor/chaplain” is or does. I explained that we offer spiritual support. They were excited to know that we offer spiritual support to patients. I told them we also minister to families and team members. They were pleasantly surprised and remarked that it is “a good thing!” They thanked me for spending time talking to them!


I agree with the students that it is “a good thing” to be there with the patients, family/friends and team members. One of my patients told me about their fear to face the future because of a new medical situation. The medical situation was going to change the patient’s physical activities forever. I agreed with them about the fears and concerns. We talked about some of the things they enjoyed doing before the sickness. We both also enjoyed talking about cooking and eating good Southern food. The patient told me about the hope to be able to cook again and to spend quality time with family, especially with grandchildren.


That patient also told me about the value found in spirituality, and said that while participation in a religious organization wasn’t something they valued, they were still happy about their relationship with God and Jesus Christ. The patient later told me God was in control, thus there was hope for better outcomes. There were possibilities for recovery that would enable the patient to re-connect with some of the things of value.


Author A.D. Lester notes that when someone is able to glean some finite hope in their lives, they have a reason to live today and tomorrow. Finite hope concerns temporary, everyday activities and expectations such as winning a game, or getting good grades.[1] Some even have infinite hope – a hope that goes beyond the temporary. The patient was grateful for the visit because family members and friends had not yet visited on that day, saying that my visit represented divine presence and encounter.


Chaplain visits and spiritual care offered to each patient somehow resonate with some individual encounters that people in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament had with God and Jesus. The writer of Genesis notes that Jacob wrestled with a spiritual being, God, and experienced a positive outcome (Genesis 32: 22-30). One of the major challenges in this life is to deal with negative news about one’s health situation or that of loved ones. Sometimes patients are somewhat ready to transition into another life through death. The patriarch Joseph knew his time of death was drawing close and told his family to prepare for it (Genesis 50: 24-26). The chaplain is there to hear all the various stories, those of joy and the ones of sorrow (Romans 12: 15).

[1] . A. D. Lester, Hope in Pastoral Care and Counseling: Louisville, Ky., Westminster John Knox Press., Louisville, Ky: 1995, 63.



Reflections are a service of the Mountain States Center for Spiritual Health, with the Rev. Debbie Shields as editor. Click here to learn more.