• December 22, 2014

Volunteer chaplains support hospitals

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Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 12:08 am

Local hospitals offer volunteer chaplaincy programs to supplement their in-house spiritual services.

Seton Medical Center Harker Heights’ volunteer chaplaincy program began in 2012, when the hospital opened, said Chaplain Jennifer Cobb, director of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care.

“Our volunteer chaplains are trained to provide emotional and spiritual support to our patients, their families, and our associates and physicians,” Cobb said. “During scheduled visitation, our volunteer chaplains visit many of our patients to assess for ongoing spiritual care needs.”

As a Catholic health care organization, the hospital focuses on caring for the whole person — physical, emotional and spiritual, Cobb said, while respecting patients’ individual religious needs.

“Our volunteer chaplains undergo intensive training both through (the hospital) and through other collaborative training programs, like Clinical Pastoral Education and Communities of Hope,” Cobb said.

Volunteer chaplains at Seton may participate in on-call chaplaincy support.

“On-call chaplains are called in to support patients or families in crisis situation,” Cobb said.

“Chaplains offer a key role of emotional and spiritual support for the patient, family, and hospital staff, as well as providing a conduit for communication for the patient’s family while the medical team is providing direct care for the patient.

“Volunteer chaplaincy is a ministry of calling,” Cobb said.

“Our volunteers are rewarded as they journey with patients and families with the joy of having made a difference in the life of someone else.”

At Metroplex Health System, Jaime Guajardo, director of the Pastoral Care Department, operates the program that the hospital started 11 years ago with two volunteer chaplains.

“Now we have 22 (chaplains), so it has been very successful,” Guajardo said.

Volunteer chaplains supplement the full-time chaplains staffed by Metroplex.

“As full-time chaplains, we visit all requests made by patients and staff, and found that we were short-handed due to high patient volume,” Guajardo said.

The volunteer chaplains are responsible for making the first visit and providing information about pastoral services for patients and their families. Follow-up visits are permitted if needed.

Volunteer chaplains undergo training, including Clinical Pastoral Care Education, pass a background check and undergo in-house supervision.

“We also sharpen the skills they already have and assist them in improving others,” Guajardo said.

For volunteer chaplains at Metroplex, the benefits are significant.

“They (receive) the satisfaction of extending the healing ministry of Christ, which is Metroplex Adventist Hospital’s mission,” Guajardo said.

“They are needed every day, because every day is an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Scott & White Hospital in Temple does not have a volunteer chaplaincy program, said hospital spokesperson Deke Jones, because of the extent of its full-fledged chaplain program.

“We have in place an education program specifically designed for chaplains in a health care setting,” Jones said.

“We typically have a full-time person here and serve as a training site for those who desire to be chaplains in a health care setting.”

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