And so it begins…


Today was 90% orientation and 10% starting to get to know each other and understand what is expected when someone from the chaplain’s office enters the patient care area.  Of course, one of the first things was the name badge (those are holographs on the badge, BTW, that show up when I take the picture), and starting to get a feel for the patient care areas.  Mostly I thought about how it was 15 years since I’ve worked in a large hospital.

In our group, I clearly had to “uncloak” in terms of my background.  It felt inauthentic not to…but I was very clear that I have much to learn in this area of patient care.  To everyone else I met today, though, I was just another chaplain intern.  The people speaking to us about the patient care areas used pretty simple language for things.  I just nodded a lot and had no questions when the opportunity for questions arose.  Truthfully, among our group, I feel underprepared.  The others in our group have all clearly had defined pastoral roles in churches, some for many years.  I am pretty un-articulate in terms of theological language that rolls off their tongues so easily.  When asked what MY pastoral experience was, I said, “Uh…uh…umm…mostly I do food ministries.”

Probably the thing I was most apprehensive about today is that we all had to pray at various parts of our learning today…spontaneously.  That’s a running joke among several in my home parish.  A few years ago, when I first supplied for the Presbyterians, I got a consult from our Priest Associate, who grew up Baptist, in “Spontaneous Praying 101.”  I think I might need “Spontaneous Praying 201” now.

The most interesting thing today was discussing the types of things that would “stretch or challenge our personal theological boundaries.”  Some of the scenarios I’d thought about, some not.  It has given me something to ponder.  This is a place where everyone on the team clearly helps one another–the rule of thumb is, “If you can’t do it, have a backup plan so that the patient’s spiritual needs are met.”  I wonder how each of our lists will change after 30 weeks.

Really, though, it mostly was what I expected on a first day–some apprehension as to how to navigate the commute from where I’ll be staying when I’m here, starting to get a feel for the layout of the hospital, paying close attention to the types of paperwork for which I’ll be responsible.  In some ways it was better than I expected.  I confess to not being used to thorough orientations.  We’re not even going to learn how to use their EMR (electronic medical record) until we meet next week, so we can spend some time on that and demonstrate competency.  Trial-by-fire orientations have been more my experience.  I’m grateful this is not.

Don’t laugh, but I feel like the most helpful thing I did today was point out, while we were walking hither and yon, that in hospitals, busy hallways almost always have mirrors in the corners, and it’s really important to get in the habit of glancing at the mirrors at intersections so you don’t get in the way of someone transporting a patient, or get run over by a big food cart or something.  Ok, so maybe it’s not quite a pastoral care thing, but it did seem worth sharing, and I felt good that something I took for granted all these years, I at least had the presence of mind to share!

There’s a lot of reading with this–we’re expected to read at least 1000 pages of articles, etc. during our 30 weeks.  I’m grateful they have provided a quiet place for me to stay when I come here (it even has wifi!), and also glad they have a call room for when I’ll be covering in-house call at the hospital.

I’ll finish by sharing a short video we saw today as part of our discussion.  I’ve seen it before, but I saw it with new eyes today.  When I’ve seen it before, I thought about the words in the captions.  Today, I noticed the gestures people made–the places where they touched them, the looks on their faces. These are all things I’ve known for years goes on in hospitals, but I’ve never had to think about being the person that assisted with this end of it before as my primary function…


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