By Elaine Chan, BCC, MDiv, MSW
About 30 years ago I got my first desktop computer. I would like to tell you that I opened it immediately like an excited child on Christmas Eve. Instead I felt a bit intimidated and waited for a colleague to help me set it up. Since then a computer has proven indispensable including communicating with others through email and looking things up on the Internet! I have used technology and social media to support and promote my work as a chaplain in various ways.
A while back I was visiting some patients when I noticed that a public relations consultant was doing some videotaping to promote programs in the hospital. I mentioned to her that I would be visiting with a 104-year-old patient. Before I knew it, she asked to videotape the patient and me. This is how I ended up in a video presentation that played in the lobby a month or so later. In addition to this short clip of the patient and me, there was also a slideshow in the lobby with information on how to contact a chaplain. The video and slideshow are some of the ways that I sought to promote the pastoral care department in the last hospital I worked at.
A little more than two months ago I contacted the public relations department in my new workplace to inform them that a Bishop Molloy High School student, who serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in the hospital, was elected valedictorian of her class. She was recently featured in the hospital’s bimonthly newsletter, noting her work in both the radiology and pastoral care departments. The newsletter helps staff learn about what is happening in various departments.
I work in a hospital with about 200 Roman Catholic patients spread over more than a dozen units. I make rounds on the various units, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion regularly visit patients and make referrals to me. I also rely on colleagues to make referrals but these can be few and far between.
Earlier this summer my chaplain colleagues and I made a presentation to the palliative care team and geriatric fellows. I noted that chaplains are usually called when a patient is dying and a request is made for the “last rites.” I explained that chaplains can be called for various situations other than impending death. Whenever possible it is best to have a conversation with the patient and family before we get to that moment.
I spoke about when and how to make a referral to a chaplain. I distributed a handout titled, “10 Good Reasons to Contact a Chaplain,” including identifying patients who seem to be having a difficult time coping with the stress of illness and hospitalization, need support in coping with a difficult diagnosis or prognosis, are hospitalized and therefore have to miss an important event – a wedding, funeral, birthday or anniversary celebration, have questions about end-of-life issues. I noted that it is beneficial for chaplains to work with family and friends who need emotional or spiritual support during a code, a long hospitalization, a difficult situation, etc. The presentation was well received. In the future, I hope to set up a slideshow presentation.
Another potential resource for chaplains is an online group that relates specifically to chaplaincy. Several years ago I attended a NACC annual conference that was held in collaboration with other chaplaincy organizations including The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. and the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. One of the affinity groups that I attended was for one-chaplain departments. Through this group I learned about a Yahoo group for one-person chaplain departments or small chaplain departments.
The one-chaplain group connects me to chaplains across the United States and beyond. I learn about chaplains in different settings and their challenges in ministering to families and loved ones in a natural disaster, death due to violence, a car accident, etc. The group can be a support to chaplains who are alone and may be dealing with difficult situations either professionally or personally. I have appreciated the prayers, Scripture and reflections that have been shared by other chaplains. The group also shares information about different volunteer opportunities for responding to natural disasters. The moderator, Rev. Tim Brooks, is retired and can be reached at email@example.com
I have a LinkedIn account, a social networking website for people in professional occupations. My social media network includes several chaplains as well as other colleagues, friends and family. LinkedIn helps me keep abreast of colleagues and developments in the healthcare field.
Keeping up with all the latest technology and information one gets can be daunting. The challenge is to evaluate what is useful and set boundaries on the time spent going through some of these resources. Just as I relied on a colleague to help me set up my first computer, I rely on others to help me make the best use of technology and social media. I pray that it becomes a valuable resource for you as well!
Elaine Chan, a member of the NACC’s Editorial Advisory Panel, is chaplain at New York Hospital Queens in Flushing, NY.