Hospital Chaplains Offer Help, Compassion Navigating Challenges

November 30, 2021
Chaplain Talk

The many people who enter Centura Health hospitals each day come from every walk of life and bring with them a host of emotions and concerns – from frightened trauma patients and grieving families to elated new parents and everything in between. And the one person who is trained to care for them all is the hospital chaplain.   

Every Centura Health hospital has a chaplain available around the clock to provide emotional and spiritual support. But who are chaplains and how can they help?  

“Chaplains are pastors who are not called to lead a church but rather to look after patients, families and health care associates while in the hospital,” explains Johnnathan Ward, director of Mission Integration for Avista Adventist Hospital. “Chaplains also receive extensive clinical training to work in the diverse hospital setting. We are in the emergency departments, intensive care units, at the bedside – anywhere we are needed.”

Care without judgement

Chaplains help people cope with hospitalization or other personal or spiritual struggles. They might pray with someone before surgery, listen to the concerns of worried family member, hold the hand of a lonely patient or lift up an overburdened health care associate.

“Most people don’t know they need a chaplain. In fact, sometimes the most meaningful interactions I have with patients and families are at times when they didn’t know my role,” says Dany Hernandez, lead chaplain for Littleton Adventist Hospital. “Our work is to just be there for others and meet them where they are. We help navigate some of the most challenging moments in life.”

Although hospital chaplains are pastors, they don’t serve people of a specific faith. They support those of all faiths and backgrounds – from Buddhists and Christians, those of Jewish faith, Islamists and more. In fact, chaplains often care for those without any belief system.  

“Everyone is accepted. We all need help at some point to figure out life’s difficulties,” says Ward. “My personal mission is ‘to share compassion and hope with every person I meet and help all people excel in their life.’ This is true regardless of faith.”

Compassionate connection

Because hospital physicians’ first priority is to tend to the physical needs of patients, chaplains work alongside them to provide compassion and information to patients and their families. For example, chaplains are called to any emergency situation in the hospital and act as a liaison between health care associates and the family.

“Sometimes what people need most is information. We talk to emergency personnel and contact the family if needed. We keep loved ones updated on progress. And if necessary we help navigate steps at end of life,” explains Hernandez.

He continues, “We live in a world where we want to fix everything. As chaplains, we can’t change patients’ outcomes, but we are present for them along the way.”

Anyone can connect with a chaplain by dialing “0” within a Centura Health hospital. Patients can also ask their bedside nurse to contact the chaplain.