The Herald Bulletin

January 25, 2013

Spiritual care

Hospitals stress holistic care

By Abbey Doyle
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — It isn’t just about healing the body, local chaplains say.

Area hospitals have a focus on holistic care, ensuring that the spirit is attended to while the body is being addressed.

Jerry Butt, director of the Center for Spiritual Care at St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, said the hospital’s logo is a direct reflection of its holistic approach — three doves to represent the body, mind and spirit of patients.

At both St. Vincent and Community Hospital Anderson, each inpatient is seen soon after being admitted, given a spiritual assessment to see how the patient is coping with their stay and how the chaplain will be able to assist them. Eleven chaplains work at St. Vincent Anderson, St. Vincent Mercy and Saint Vincent Randolph hospitals. Someone is there from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on call around the clock coming in for deaths or when needed.

“We know our patients have a spirit, and we want to tap into that, believing patients cope better if we take the time to meet their spiritual needs,” Butt said.

He recalled a recent interaction with a terminal cancer patient. When asked what gave him hope, what kept him going, the man told Butt that he’d built doll houses for each of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He had one on the way and wanted to live long enough to build another one.

“I want to focus on what we can do to help them do better as a patient, to help them heal,” Butt said, pointing out that for this patient it was those doll houses, something the patient was able to do before he passed.

The chaplains are called in at times of death, crisis in the emergency department or other areas of the hospital and focus much of their time on visiting with those at the end of their life.

“Chaplains often provide comfort and can help explain what is going on and prepare (families and the patient) for what may happen next,” True said. “Patients are so important to us. We want to be sure they and their families are treated with respect, dignity and the kind of care they deserve.”

Not only are chaplains there to serve patients, but much of their time is spent helping support family and friends of the patient and the staff who are also affected by tragedy and trauma.

One of the biggest things they can offer patients is to take the time to sit with them, letting them “pour their hearts out, find out what’s troubling them, their concerns,” Butt said.

“Patients often feel powerless,” he said. “All day long people come in to treat them, but they have no control. The chaplain is able to take the time to listen and give the patient a sense of empowerment and compassion, something some of the other disciplines may not have the opportunity to do.”

The hospitals have chaplains, both staff and volunteer, representing several different religions and service people of all faiths. Some of them are ordained and seminary trained like Butt, who was a pastor with a Christian church for 25 years, and True, a pastor in the Christian church for 13 years. The Catholic chaplains at St. Vincent are sisters from the congregation of the Holy Cross that founded the hospital.

True majored in pastoral care when he was in seminary and received a master’s in the program. He has maintained board certification from the National Association of Professional Chaplains since 1976. Like True, Butt said he has found this line of ministry the most rewarding.

“I loved being a minister and really enjoyed relating to people one-on-one,” Butt said. “I enjoyed ministering to people in moments of crisis, and the chaplaincy program gives me the opportunity to do that. It is a deep honor to be with people in their greatest time of need. It is very satisfying.”