Patients at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital can count on a visit from a member of the spiritual care team within 48 hours of admission.
The team is made up of Catholic priests, Protestant clergy and one Catholic sister. They work to offer spiritual support not just to patients and their families but also visitors, colleagues, and physicians. Additionally, there is a team of Eucharistic ministers who bring communion to the bedside of Catholic patients.
“Our approach is really holistic, providing a supportive presence for our patients, their families and friends,” said Rev. Chance Beeler, a spiritual care facilitator at St. Elizabeth’s. “There are studies that link positive outcomes to the involvement with patients and their families during the time that they're in the hospital or receiving medical care.”
Often, people are admitted to the hospital to have a procedure or treatment for conditions that are not necessarily life threatening, but Beeler says it's still important that they have someone who can listen, guide them or just sit with them.
“They're having to suddenly stop their lives and go into the hospital,” Beeler said. “It’s important to be available to them, to affirm their emotions and their beliefs and to help them to recognize that they're not alone.”
It’s also important that patients and their families have support when preparing advanced directives such as a durable power of attorney for health care when they’re preparing for surgery so that there is someone who can make decisions if necessary when patients are unable to speak for themselves.
The spiritual care team also provides assistance and support in regard to end-of-life decisions for patients and family. They help them with things like advanced directives, power of attorney and do not resuscitate decisions and paperwork. As with any decision when multiple people become involved, there can be differences of opinion and Beeler helps the family work out those issues as well.
“Part of what we do is reflect back to the patient or their family what we're hearing,” Beeler said. “We may simply help them understand that they're talking about the same thing but just using different words. Listening is key in working with both patients and families. We may participate in family meetings, discuss their options or just be there to provide support.”
All members of the spiritual care team at St. Elizabeth’s have undergone Clinical Pastoral Education, CPE. With the help of a mentor, students in CPE learn to work through various situations and issues. One of the most important parts of that training, said Beeler, is learning about yourself. That self-awareness helps spiritual care team members be fully present, listen deeply and provide the kind of support that’s called for in a particular situation.
“It’s definitely a calling to do this kind of work,” Beeler said. “It's a blessing to have the opportunity to come alongside a patient and their family during these times and to be able to be a part of their care.”
- By ALAN J. ORTBALS