The Rev. Joe Young, head chaplain at Baptist Memorial Hospital of North Mississippi in Oxford, said the pastoral staff at BMHNM can see anywhere between 70 to 100 patients and families in need of spiritual care in just one week.
Young said the pastoral care department at BMHNM is committed to providing spiritual care to all patients, even those not of the Christian faith. No matter how long a patient stays in the hospital Young and his staff are there to provide comfort and counseling if it is needed.
“All the patients, including cath-lab patients, are asked if they want to see a chaplain,” Young said. “The ones that say yes, I will go visit.”
If a patient is not of the Christian faith and would like to see a chaplain, the patient can make a request to Young through a nurse to see a faith leader of their choice, or a leader from their own house of worship.
Every visit Young makes is free of charge to the patient. While other departments of the hospital generate a profit, Young said that the pastoral care program does not. His department is a non-revenue producing department.
“This department is valuable because whether or not the patient experiences a cure or a healing here, the patient can receive spiritual care,” Young said.
BMHNM is part of a hospital corporation known as Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. It has hospitals in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi with its headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. All the hospitals affiliated with the corporation are joint commission hospitals according to Young. The joint commission is a set of guidelines that all national hospitals must follow. While not all national hospitals are required to have a pastoral staff, the joint commission does provide outlines for pastoral staff to follow.
“The pastoral care here is a service for the patient, the family and for the staff to provide the spiritual care that is valuable to them,” Young said.“ Whatever they tell me is confidential and private under HIPPA.”
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requires that all hospitals and health care providers protect the confidentiality of all patients, which is included in the joint commission’s standards.
“By law, the only private and confidential thing I have to report is if someone tells me they are going to hurt themselves, hurt someone else or they have already hurt someone else,” Young said.
HIPPA also provides the right for a patient to decline a visit from a chaplain. It is their choice to have the hospital chaplain visit, to have their own chaplain come visit or even have no chaplain come visit them.
“We are a faith based organization and the chaplains I work with are Christian,” Young said, “but if there is someone that needs someone besides a Christian, then I make contact with the person they want.”
Valerie Hansen, Baptist Memorial Healthcare Administrative Assistant of Pastoral Care, said there are 21 full time chaplains, four part-time chaplains and over 200 volunteer chaplains in the corporation’s network.
“All of our staff chaplains are required to have four units of Clinical Pastoral Education, which means an internship with a hospital pastoral care program, and they must have a master’s degree in Divinity (a theological degree),” Hansen said.
Young has been the head chaplain at BMHNM in Oxford for almost five years, but has been a chaplain with Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation for 16 years. He started his chaplaincy in Knoxville, Tenn., and did his clinical education at the East Tennessee Baptist Hospital in Knoxville. As head chaplain of BMHNM, Young oversees other pastors, church leaders, and laymen who volunteer at the hospital as a volunteer chaplain.
“In a given week, we can see anywhere from 70 to 100 patients and their families,” Young said.
Dr. Bradley Schultz, a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, is a member of the Peace Lutheran Church in Oxford, Miss, and is a volunteer chaplain for BMHNM.
Schultz volunteers his time on Saturday evenings at BMHNM in Oxford, and has been volunteering for two years.
“I really have two main jobs,” Schultz said. “One is to be on-call for people who request pastoral care when a staff chaplain is not at the hospital, and the other is offering counseling and support.”
Shultz said that volunteer chaplains do not have to be licensed ministers like staff chaplains in hospitals. BMHNM has training classes once a month for volunteers in order to train the people who want to volunteer. He said they teach you how to deal with the spiritual needs of someone who is ill and how to minister to family members that are staying with the patient.
“Hospitals and doctors well understand the spiritual value of healing,” Schultz said.
According to Young, if a doctor or a nurse who works for BMHNM sees that a patient is not doing well or simply needs someone to talk to, then they are allowed to ask the patient if they would like to see a chaplain. At any time of the day BMHNM provides a licensed chaplain or a trained volunteer chaplain to a patient in need of spiritual nourishment.
“People aren’t looking for ‘I want a Baptist to help’ or ‘I want a Methodist prayer,’” Schultz said. “They’re looking for God.”
Young holds a chapel service at BMHNM in Oxford every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. in the small chapel across from the gift shop on the first floor of the hospital. Every one, no matter what, is welcome to the prayer and devotion time.
Emily Newton is HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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