Name: Nancy Cook, MDiv, MSW, BCC
Work: Regional Director of Spiritual Care, Southeast Texas, CHRISTUS Health
Member since: 2006
Volunteer service: 1.) Omaha Summit 2007, 2.) California State Liaison 2008-2009, 3.) Care Services Task Force/Leadership Competencies 2007-2009, 4. Certification Committee – Interviewer 2009-2010, 5.) Certification Committee – Interview Team Educator 2010-present, 6.) Standards Commissioner 2010-present
Book on your nightstand: “Renovating Old House: Bringing Life to Vintage Homes,” (or “ching, ching”) by George Nash, Taunton Press, 2003.
Books you recommend most often: John 4 and John 14
Favorite spiritual resource: Meditation
Favorite fun activity: Golfing and solving Nancy Drew interactive mysteries
Favorite movie: The Royal Tenenbaums
Favorite retreat spots: Coast lines and river banks
Personal mentors or role models: Mike Saxton, Indiana University Health System, and Dan Ford, CHRISTUS Health
Famous/historic mentors or role models: Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa and Tim Russert
Why did you become a chaplain? My professional career started in Seattle as an accountant and, at the time, I really don’t think I even knew what a chaplain was. At some point in my accounting for widgets, I thought there had to be something more. To sort it out, I decided to take a one-year sabbatical and volunteered for the American Red Cross Aid to Aging program and the Seattle Parks & Recreation program. It was an experience in the former that catapulted me from the absolutes of the green and red world of spreadsheets and balance sheets to the colorless foreign place of unknowns and paradox. It was in this place that I became an accidental missionary working in Mother Teresa’s missions in Kolkata, India, where I served the sick and dying and did chaplain work without knowing it and without having a name for it.
When my sabbatical was over I began working at a parish while I completed my master’s of divinity at Seattle University. I did parish work serving the elderly and homebound while learning about infinite needs and finite resources and how to carry a lot of things in one trip. I then worked at the University at Notre Dame serving college students as a rector (aka in loco parentis). I learned that, as an introvert, working to meet the psycho-social, spiritual and academic needs of students was extremely exhausting. But I have to admit I learned a lot about myself and other good things too, for instance, the music of the Dave Mathews Band (The Christmas Song).
It was at the convergence of wondering about my career path and an almost accidental introduction to CPE that I found knowledge and understanding and a name for what I had been moving toward – that is, to be a chaplain. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to serve at leading Catholic health care systems, such as Trinity Health for my CPE, and in leadership at Dignity Health, and now at CHRISTUS Health.
What do you get from NACC? My membership in NACC helps me to continue to develop personally and professionally and to befriend outstanding colleagues.
Why do you stay in the NACC? I am actively involved because I strongly believe in the association and its leadership. Additionally, I believe we have a responsibility to promote our profession so that it becomes properly entrenched in healthcare. We work as partners with NACC to accomplish that.
What volunteer activity has been most rewarding? All of my volunteer work has been a great joy; working as an interviewer has been one of my favorites. In this role, I reviewed and assessed an applicant’s certification materials against our standards. With each applicant’s materials I asked myself how I was measuring up to the standards. It became an examen for me.
What have you learned from volunteering? Active participation in NACC helps make me a better person, chaplain and leader.