My colleague, Tim Mitchinson, recently attended a conference on “The important role of compassion in healthcare.” In his latest blog he reflects on what he learned and how it relates to his own practice of spiritual healing. One of the conference participants spoke of the challenges of their hospice and hospital work, but added, “Instead of saying our work is hard work, which it is, know that it is holy work.” Tim’s blog was first published on May 17, 2017 in the Peoria Journal-Star.
Early in my spiritual healing practice I went to visit a homeless man who was living temporarily in a motel. He was suffering from extreme mental distress and intense fear. I talked to him for a while, sharing ideas I hoped would calm and comfort him, but he only became irrationally angry with me, and as I got in the car to leave, he slammed the car door on my leg.
As he pushed and pushed, he said, “I am going to push this door until I break your leg.” I was just quiet. Soon, he let go. I got out of the car and sat down in the parking lot with him and he talked for over an hour. I listened, and we prayed together. He quieted down, and stated he needed someone to listen to him and pray with him. He was much better when I left. Shortly after that, he found an apartment he could afford and lived there happily for quite a while. From that experience, I learned the importance of compassion in helping others.
Compassion was the theme of this year’s “Caring for the Human Spirit” Conference in Chicago. Sponsored by the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, this year’s speakers focused on the important role compassion plays in patient care. Held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, the conference was attended by 300 hospital and hospice chaplains, nurses and social workers, and via video conferencing by professionals from all over the world – from the Netherlands and Germany to Ethiopia and Kenya.
According to the HealthCare Chaplaincy Network, 87% of patients call spirituality important in their lives and according to one survey, 72% of patients articulated that they received minimal or no spiritual support from the medical team. To remedy this, Dr. Harold Koenig, M.D. of Duke University contends that patients need spiritual care generalists – physicians, nurses, social workers, etc, and spiritual care specialists – board certified chaplains (those who have completed a Master’s degree in Divinity or its equivalent in an area relevant to professional chaplaincy).