How the UK HealthCare Pastoral Care Program provides respectful support for all

Pastoral Care

When a patient is admitted to the hospital, it’s often the beginning of one of the most difficult journeys of their lives, and the lives of their loved ones.

That reality is at the forefront of the minds of UK HealthCare providers as they strive to deliver the best possible patient care with an unmatched level of compassion.

Our Pastoral Care Program plays an important role in realizing that vision. Our chaplains are available 24 hours a day, year-round to help patients and their families deal with spiritual and emotional challenges often associated with medical events and crises. 

It’s the role of our chaplains to support patients and their loved ones spiritually and emotionally while in the hospital, regardless of faith or religious affiliation.

We recently spoke with staff chaplain Rev. Stephen Summers about the Pastoral Care Program and how it provides this support.

Can you explain what a chaplain does for patients in the hospital?

Rev. Summers: Chaplains serve as the spiritual care specialists on the interdisciplinary team.
We perform individual assessment of spiritual, emotional, and cultural concerns that may impact a patient’s medical decision making and ability to cope during serious illness.

Our interventions may include reflective listening, prayer, empathetic support, contacting a patient’s faith community, performing a life review, and ultimately assisting patients in integrating their spiritual beliefs with their new medical reality.

What makes the Pastoral Care Program unique at UK HealthCare?

Rev. Summers: I believe there are several things that set the UK HealthCare Pastoral Care Team apart. All of the Chaplains at UK go through rigorous training. Staff chaplains are required to be Board Certified by our National Accrediting agency within two years of being hired. 
Our presence in the hospital is 24/7/365. There is a staff chaplain present in-house and available all of the time. 

Our Clinical Pastoral Education program allows us to train chaplain interns and residents as well.  Our internships run during the fall semester, spring semester, and over the summer. Our residency program is one year. 

One of the things that makes us unique is the longevity of our staff.  Many of our chaplains have been here for an extensive amount of time and bring a lot of institutional knowledge to the table. That longevity has also allowed them to build many close relationships over time and earn the trust of their colleagues.   

Why are chaplaincy services important for one's mental health?

Rev. Summers: Hospitals are high-stress, scary places for many people, and sometimes it is hard to open up about your struggles to someone that you know or with whom you have a close relationship.

Chaplains provide an outlet for patients, families and staff to share their experiences in a non-judgmental environment, allowing them to release their stress and anxiety and cope in a healthier way.  

When we care for a patient’s mental and spiritual health, we are caring for their physical health as well. 

Am I required to see a chaplain?

Rev. Summers: No, chaplaincy services are available for everyone, but are never required or mandated 

What are some common misconceptions around chaplaincy services that you would like to address?

Rev. Summers: Chaplains are not just here to serve patients who would describe themselves as spiritual or religious. We are here to provide care for anyone and everyone who comes to UK HealthCare. 

While many people think of us as primarily focused on patient care, staff care is also an essential focus of our work.  In addition to leading debriefs for staff and offering other educational opportunities, we also provide one-on-one support for UK HealthCare staff who need it. 

Chaplains at UK HealthCare provide support in a number of different ways that go beyond end-of-life care. Some who are not familiar with our work may think that chaplains are only here for emergencies or if patients are dying. We are here to provide spiritual and emotional support to everyone.

Is there anything else you'd like members of the community to know about the Pastoral Care Program?

Rev. Summers: To our UK HealthCare community, I would say that we are here for you, to provide support to you and help you as you provide vital care to the people of Kentucky. To our broader community in Lexington, Central Kentucky, and to all the people who come from far and wide to UK HealthCare for their care, we will be here for you, support you, and walk alongside you throughout your journey with us.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.

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