I am having a difficult time “jumping right in there” and visiting patients. A couple of us from General were talking yesterday about how we, if we were patients, would not want someone coming into our room and attempting to do with us what we are being instructed/encouraged to do with patients. I feel as if I am intruding. It is different to enter a room and explain who I am and what the Chaplaincy Office can provide than to attempt to get people to emote.
For some odd reason, I have far less hesitancy when in the Emergency Room than when on my assigned floor. Perhaps it is the openness of the physical space in the Emergency Room – I don’t know. I have prayed with every one of the ER patients I have visited.
I do know that I need to relax. I need to be myself, which I think may run a bit contrary to the wishes of the chaplaincy office. (I was told I verged on proselytizing when I encouraged a patient who was lonely a fearful of being by her self when returning home and who had a Christian upbringing to seeking out church or religious community.) I need to be more present in the moment (“Be here, now!”). I need to be more curious when patients do want to talk – ask more open-ended questions and follow-up on comments with more probing questions.
I am also having a hard time understanding my role as a chaplain. I am not from Psych who focuses on the mental aspect of a person. I am not a counselor who focuses on the emotions. I am not a social worker who focuses on physical needs. I am not a doctor or nurse who focus on the medical needs of a person. I am a chaplain, a religious and faith person. I focus on the soul. My job, as I see it, is not simply to try to get people to emote so they can feel better. I can do that, but so can people from Psych and social workers, and doctors and nurses for that matter. I am, as I see it, to focus of the development, growth, and strengthening of a person’s spiritual life. Because the ministry is inter-faith, I will encourage them in what ever religion or spiritual community they want to be a part of, but I will encourage them to develop their spiritual life, to be faithful, to recognize the social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical benefits of a spiritual life not neglected.
If we are truly beings made up of body, mind, and soul (or however that dynamic is categorized or described), then let the professionals who deal with each do their work. If chaplains are to be respected as important members of a holistic health care team, then we have to be more than simply hand-holders or people to get family members out of the way so doctors and nurses can do their work. Chaplains can do such things joyfully, but I believe our role is as healers of the soul. However, some people are so afraid of offending people that they will forgo their freedom as representatives of “God” to speak into a person’s life when deal with spiritual matters and the soul as doctors deal with the body and psychiatrists and therapists deal with the mind. I can’t do that and be authentic, which means if I must then this learning experience will not help me to find my place in this kind of role, but rather simply cause me to suppress who and what I think I am.

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