Hospital Chaplains Grapple With COVID-19’s ‘Tsunami’ Of Grief
Six chaplains share stories from the spiritual front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. [Includes Jason Callahan, The Humanist Society board member and Humanist Chaplain]
By Carol Kuruvilla
Huffington Post — June 23, 2020
Humanist chaplain for the Thomas Palliative Care Unit at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, Richmond, Virginia.
How has your work changed due to the pandemic?
The palliative care aspect of things has changed tremendously. Since we were getting ready for the potential influx of COVID-positive patients, for end-of-life care, we began finding options for patients who wanted to get discharged home. There is a lot more staff care being done because of the risks of being a caregiver in this environment and the toll it takes on people daily. We have taken on the family role as well. We loved our patients before, but now it means something else entirely.
What are some things that you do that you’ve found to be especially comforting for coronavirus patients and their families?
Constant communication is key. We just have to do that a lot more to reassure families and patients. Listening and finding a way to put pieces of them in the room goes a long way as well. I’ll get emails from families that will send me pictures to print up and post in the patients’ rooms. Or I will write down an inside joke from a family member and have the nurse read it to the patient when they go in, just to get a smile.
Has the pandemic changed how you feel about your work?
I feel like chaplains are more essential now than ever. If chaplains were expected to justify our presence in health care systems before, I bet now people are starting to see the need to have us clear as day.