As part of our curriculum, my school assigns us to Chaplain rounds, in which we shadow a chaplain for several hours in the hospital. For context, a chaplain is a person with religious training that is charge of providing spiritual care to patients, both for those in their own denomination as well as outside of it.
Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, but I did want to learn more about a chaplain’s role in the hospital. The chaplain I was assigned to, a Rabbi, introduced herself and outlined her roles and responsibilities in the hospital. She explained to me the training process for hospital chaplains, and how they spend their day in the wards.
During my visit, I managed to observe the chaplain speak to two patients. The first patient was a neurology patient was not seeking religious care, but mainly just someone to talk to. She was having a difficult time coping alone and away from home, missing work and dealing with insurance companies, and wanted someone to which she could voice her struggles. The second patient was a psychiatric patient who wanted advice on a paper he was writing. Although it became clear that his ideas were outlandish and abnormal, the chaplain was still more than happy to listen.
Throughout the encounter, I was impressed how the chaplain compassionately and respectfully acknowledged all of her patients concerns. It seemed that in addition to the spiritual care they are officially tasked with, chaplains did a lot of unofficial work providing emotional support for patients. After the process, I learned a lot about the chaplain’s duties and their necessity in the medical setting. After being prodded and poked by doctors and nurses all day, patients found a smiling, listening face a welcome sight.