E is for Emergency Room

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(This is the fifth in the series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

It is the beating heart of the hospital. It’s also the only place I’ve ever seen a human heart beating (or struggling to beat) inside someone’s chest, up close and personal. I never know quite what I’m walking into when I get a call to the ER. Chaplains are part of the trauma team, automatically paged in the event of a trauma call. (More on that when we get to the letter T.) But there are many other reasons we get requests to come to the emergency room. It’s one of the units where I spend the most time. My closest friends on staff at the hospital are those who work the ER. (Incidentally, it is more appropriately called the emergency department, since it comprises many rooms. But thanks to those pharmaceutical commercials, when I hear ED I can only think of erectile dysfunction, so it remains the ER for me.)

Here, it’s all about crisis. Almost nobody wakes up in the morning planning on being in the ER later that day. The things that bring people here are sudden and surprising. Continue reading “E is for Emergency Room”

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D is for Death

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(This is the fourth in my series, ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy. Read other posts in the series here.)

“He then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly, departing this life as equals.”

Sometimes I forget how different my perspective is from that of most “normal” people. Then my roommate asks me, “How was work last night?” I reply, “Not too bad. Just two deaths and a trauma.” She laughs and I look at her quizzically. “Sorry,” she says, “but you’re the only person I know who would call two deaths in one shift ‘not too bad.’ Your job is so weird.” I guess she has a point. Working in a hospital, encountering death on such a routine basis, is more than a little weird. Continue reading “D is for Death”

To My Good Friends, Whom I’ve Never Met

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It is rather a strange 21st-century phenomenon. There are people I have never met — and may never meet — in “real life” who know things about me that I haven’t shared even with members of my own family. It all started, for me, with a group on Twitter. I don’t even remember how we all found each other, but somehow a bunch of hospital chaplains from very different religious backgrounds and several different countries started a weekly chat at #SocMedChap, for Social Media Chaplains. We would take turns facilitating the discussion, choosing a topic and throwing out a few different questions for the group to tweet responses. It was eye-opening reading these different perspectives from fellow chaplains, even in 140-character bursts.  Continue reading “To My Good Friends, Whom I’ve Never Met”

ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: C is for Charting

When I began my first unit of CPE, way back in 2006, I remember the awesome sense of responsibility I had each time I got to document one of my patient visits. I can’t believe we get to write in the patients’ charts, I thought, just like doctors do! Over the next several years and hundreds, maybe thousands of visits, charting became much less exciting. It was part of the routine, something to check off the list of tasks that must be done. “If you didn’t chart it, it didn’t happen,” my CPE supervisor told us. So I charted my visits, over and over and over again. Every job involves paperwork, I suppose, and this is ours. (And yes, when I started out, most of the charting we did was still on paper, writing with an actual pen on a form in a binder. It’s all electronic now.)  Continue reading “ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: C is for Charting”

ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible

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I’m sure it’s not true everywhere, but since the hospital where I work is located pretty securely in the Bible Belt, we chaplains get a lot of requests to bring Bibles to patients. Our office also contains copies of other sacred texts — the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, and more — but rarely do we get a request for one of those. Instead, we regularly get calls from nurses whose patients say they left their Bibles at home when they were hospitalized and would like to borrow one. We have a steady supply of Gideon Bibles, so it’s okay that we almost never get them back. One patient told me not long ago, “I just can’t fall asleep without reading God’s word!” I wondered which parts she wasn’t reading, since I have found a lot in there over the years that would keep me awake nights.  Continue reading “ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible”