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Spirituality can include an awareness of something greater than the individual self and beliefs about the meaning of life. It can be a source of peace, purpose, support and connectedness to others.
A serious illness like cancer may challenge your beliefs and cause a great deal of distress. For some, faith can help carry you through these difficult times. Getting in touch with your spirituality may help you cope better with the psychological and emotional affects of cancer.
At CTCA at Southwestern Regional Medical Center, our Pastoral Care Department strives to provide a universal umbrella of spiritual support for you and your family. If you decide to incorporate spiritual support into your care, we will come alongside you and support you throughout your healing journey.
The Pastoral Care Team at Southwestern
The Pastoral Care Department at Southwestern consists of four chaplains and a spiritual outreach coordinator. Our chaplains reach across cultures, beliefs and religious backgrounds to address a broad spectrum of faiths. "We are here to help patients grow on whatever spiritual foundation they bring when they come to us" says Reverend Michael Langham, Director of Pastoral Care at Southwestern.
When you first arrive at the hospital, you can choose to meet with a member of our pastoral care team. Whether or not you decide to seek spiritual support during your care is completely up to you. If you decide to meet with one of our chaplains, they will typically call you, or visit with you and/or with your family, within the first 24 hours of your arrival. The purpose of this visit is to get to know you, discuss your beliefs and assess your spiritual needs.
Your Spiritual Plan
Based upon your preferences and identified needs, our chaplains will incorporate spiritual support into your overall treatment plan. They will work within your belief system to help you explore ways that spirituality can play a part in your healing.
“In the 15 years that I have been here, I have ministered to individuals from over 60 different faith affiliations,” says Rev. Langham. If you would be more comfortable seeing clergy from your own faith affiliation, our chaplains will contact local clergy for you and help coordinate this visitation.
A chaplain will typically visit you three times a week, or as often as needed. In addition, they consult regularly with your cancer care team. “We are part of a patient’s interdisciplinary team, and we meet several times a week to discuss patient care,” says Rev. Langham. For instance, our chaplains visit all patients prior to scheduled surgical procedures for the purpose of providing prayer, encouragement and spiritual support. They also visit all patients who are referred by one of our physicians.
Southwestern’s pastoral care team is here for you from day one and throughout your care. “We are here for the patient and the family from the very beginning,” Rev. Langham says. In fact, he says, “Sometimes, I will contact a patient or a family member even before they come to us for treatment.” If you have questions or issues related to your faith or spiritual beliefs, a chaplain will speak with you over the phone before you arrive. Once you leave the hospital and go home, our chaplains will continue to maintain contact with you over the phone, upon your request, to provide prayer and/or counsel.
Just as a physician compiles an assessment of your physical health and medical needs, if you would like, our chaplains, through visits and conversations with you, complete an individual spiritual assessment for you.
“We do a spiritual assessment with all of our in-patients to find out where they are from a spiritual perspective, what they believe, how they believe it, and how we can be of service to them right where they are,” says Rev Langham.
Direct Spiritual Care
Our chaplains are available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They carry pagers, so whenever there is an emergency, no matter what time of day, they can offer assistance and support to you and your family.
Our chaplains offer support to you and your family members in the following ways:
- Visitation and counsel
- Group and individual prayer
- Telephone consultation
- Worship services
- Taped ministry
- Patient rights issues
- Grief and bereavement counseling
- Assistance with developing advanced directives and/or living wills
- Crisis intervention
- Support with end-of-life issues and decisions
- Classes that focus on healing, faith and life
Our chaplains provide worship services on Sunday and Wednesday mornings in the chapel. Worship services are regular church services and include times of singing, patient testimonials, prayer, scripture readings, a sermon and communion. A team from a local parish also holds a Catholic mass once a month in the chapel for our Catholic patients and family members.
Our chaplains also hold interfaith services/corporate prayer on Monday mornings in the chapel for you, your family members and even hospital staff. “I truly believe that we can only take as good care of our patients as we take care of ourselves. So, taking care of the hospital staff is very important to us as well,” Rev. Langham says.
Covers of Love Program
As a gift of encouragement, Southwestern traditionally offers a home-made lap blanket/quilt to patients the first time you attend a mid-week worship service. These blankets, also called “covers of love,” are made and sent to us by volunteers from all over the country. Some blankets have cards or notes attached to them, with messages of hope and inspiration.
On Thursday nights, the Pastoral Care Department holds an hour-long song service called “Singspiration,” in which volunteers from area churches come and minister through music.
Extended Spiritual Care
After you leave Southwestern, our chaplains will continue to provide spiritual support by phone and through the Our Journey of Hope® Program. In addition, our department maintains a library of worship service tapes, and will copy and mail them out to you upon your request. Our chaplains are also available to speak to church groups about what CTCA has to offer, or about faith as it relates to cancer and health.
Our Journey of Hope® Program
Our Journey of Hope® is a spiritual outreach program providing spiritual support for cancer patients and their families on the web. It is also a comprehensive program of lay ministry training in churches to help congregants and clergy become more effective in ministry to cancer patients and their families. And, it is a speakers’ bureau and ongoing support for patients and their church.
Spiritual Support on the Web
The website provides encouragement, hope and resources for cancer patients and their families, as well as ministry tools and tips for those who care for them through a section called Hope Navigators. Cancer patients and family members can find weekly devotionals, monthly sermons, testimonies, and resources, including articles on faith and healing, recommended books, DVDs and helpful Scriptures on hope and comfort. Information is also available on training available for church members.
Lay Ministry Training
Another component of the program featured on the website is lay ministry training. Pastoral and clinical staff from CTCA hospitals travel nationwide to provide a day of training (free of charge) to church staff and congregants. The goal of this training is to help staff members become more effective in ministry to cancer patients and their families.
“We have a responsibility to the world to share with them everything we have learned in treating cancer patients. This is our way of giving back,” says Rev. Langham.
A portion of a typical cancer or lay ministry training has been videotaped and is available to watch on Hope Navigators. Thousands of people have already gone through the training and found it helpful in being able to better understand the needs of cancer patients and their families and how to more effectively minister to them.
Newly-trained lay ministers can connect with patients by offering mini-seminars on cancer-related topics. Sample speaker topics include: Foods of the Bible, Energizing Your Immune System, Health According to Your Faith, Forgiveness, What’s Lying Around Your House?, Cancer-Fighting Nutrition, Superfoods, Enhancement of Health Through Laughter and Coping with Anxiety.