Jenny Wells

UK HealthCare Chaplains See Hospitals As Their Place Of Ministry

Published: Mar 29, 2013

See video

Video by UK Public Relations and Marketing. Transcript available for download. 

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 29, 2013) - If you ask Joe Alverson, director of enterprise pastoral services, to describe the job of hospital chaplain, the answer comes metaphorically.

 

"I really consider the hospital to be our place of ministry," Alverson said. "The staff is our congregation. And the patients are our visitors. They come and check us out for a while."

 

The critical component of this ministry, Alverson said, is the medical center staff.

 

"The staff is here every day," Alverson continued. "If we don't care for the staff, who will? You have to care for the caregiver, and that's our job. It is not an easy task to come here every day and care for people like they do."

 

Two and a half years ago, when Alverson was named as director, he saw a need for additional chaplains to help better serve the hospital. At the time, the UK Chandler Hospital had two chaplains.

 

"I worked diligently talking to administration, sharing with them my vision for the department," he said. "We needed more people here to care for our patients, their families, and our employees."

 

Today, Alverson is seeing that vision come to fruition. UK Chandler Hospital now has eight chaplains who cover the hospitals 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

 

The addition of chaplains has helped not only fulfill the need to help more patients and health professionals and staff but to help change the perception of chaplains.

 

"We were firemen," Alverson said. "We would go to the place where we were called, put out the fire, make sure it's OK, and then we would leave. It isn't that way anymore. We are able to head off those fires a little more. We are able to spend more time with people and establish relationships with patients, and we are able to develop relationships with the staff so they are more comfortable calling us or giving us a heads up about situations in their unit.

 

"For the staff, it provides a great sense of comfort," Alverson added. "It provides them with the ability to know that they are able to take care of the patient medically, and that if there is something that needs taken care of spiritually, we are here to take care of that."

 

Robert Summers, one of two chaplains at UK Good Samaritan Hospital, agreed. "It allows us to be present with more people - to see more patients and to be with more staff," he said. "It's more work, but that's what (Alverson) told each of us when we came on - that he was hiring us to work hard and to make a real impact here. We are able to do so much more now that we have more staff."

 

Jef Ritzler, an emergency department nurse and shift supervisor at UK Chandler Hospital, echoed the impact of having a chaplain available at all times..

 

"Being in the emergency department, we never know when the next crisis will hit," said Ritzler. "It is invaluable to have the chaplains here 24/7 to provide support to our patients, families and staff. They are a comforting presence in the midst of what at times can be a chaotic environment."

 

Another benefit of having more chaplains and therefore more time with patients, families and staff, Alverson said, is that the perception most people have of chaplains is shifting.

 

"We know that we are not usually seen as the good news people," Alverson said. "Sometimes it scares people. But with additional staff, we are able to make rounds and be more visible. We can just stop in to see patients just to let them know we are here.

 

Alverson said the other perception they would like to make is that caring for patients isn't always about religion.

 

"Whether we talk about a spiritual matter or not, we are still providing pastoral care for that patient," Alverson said. If we talk about Mr. Brown's cows because Mr. Brown's cows are important to him, I'm providing pastoral care to him because he's concerned and I'm listening to that. If Mr. Brown wants to talk about eternity, we will talk about that too. Or his faith. That's still pastoral care. We are caring about him.

 

"Our job is to care for that patient in the moment," Alverson added. "That's our job. We are not here to impart our beliefs on the people we encounter. We aren't here to convert you. We aren't here to tell you what you believe is wrong. Our job is to care for you here right now. That is what we are here to do."

 

"We are here to serve," Summers added. "We are here to serve patients and staff. Being able to have more people here in the hospital, to have a bigger footprint has given us the ability to define our role more clearly."

 

The UK HealthCare chaplains are: Joe Alverson, Phylis Borchert, Jay Fulton, Jeremy Garbat-Welch, Chris Jennings, Mairi Renwick, Christine Ross and Stephen Summers.

 

chaplain_services.jpg
File Downloads
January
 
 
 
 
1
 
Thu
2
 
Fri
3
 
Sat
4
 
Sun
5
 
Mon
6
 
Tue
7
 
Wed
8
 
Thu
9
 
Fri
10
 
Sat
11
 
Sun
12
 
Mon
13
Job Club: Job Search Strategies for the New Year: A 15 Day Action Plan
Tue
14
Bicycle Trivia
LNFS Presents: Hercules
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Wed
15
LNFS Presents: Dazed and Confused
LNFS Presents: Boyhood
MLK "I Have A Dream" Silent March, Vigil & Program
Thu
16
MLK Multicutural Org Fair
Fri
17
 
Sat
18
 
Sun
19
 
Mon
20
 
Tue
21
LNFS Presents: Mission Impossible 3
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
Caregiver Support Group
Wed
22
LNFS Presents: Big Hero 6
LNFS Presents: Together With You (He ni zai yi ki)
Thu
23
LNFS Presents: Five Broken Cameras
LNFS Presents: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Cultural Coffee Hour
Fri
24
Pershing Rifles Drill Meet
Welcome Back Students Swing Dance!
Sat
25
 
Sun
26
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 11 a.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ Noon
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
Mon
27
Pinterest Party #1
Job Club: Using Networking to Find and Land a Hidden Job
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 1 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 2 p.m.
Career & Major Exploration Session @ 3 p.m.
Tue
28
LNFS Presents: There Will Be Blood
Wildcat Wellness: Meditation
National Student Exchange (NSE) Info Session
Chapel Talk: Why The Church Should Support Marriage Equality
Wed
29
LNFS Presents: Mulholland Drive
LNFS Presents: Fury
Tattoo Exhibit
CatWatch Party #1
Thu
30
LNFS Presents: Clerks
LNFS Presents: Friday
Cultural Coffee Hour
Faculty Media Depot Opening Reception
Fri
31
 
Sat

Fri, 01/30/2015

Repeats every week every Friday until Fri May 01 2015 .
Fri, 01/30/2015

Mon, 02/02/2015

Reset Page