Ministry to Geisinger patients

The Spiritual Care Department provides vital ministry to patients, family members and employees by intervening in the full range of problems and crises that occur in tertiary health care. We are an ecumenical team. A number of chaplains are assigned to teams that provide ministry to particular patient areas.

Newly admitted patients receive initial visits as time allows. Chaplain assistants, volunteers especially trained to make initial visits to patients, also serve on specific teams. They assist us in the effort to contact as many patients as possible within 72 hours of admission.

A duty chaplain is available by pager at all times to respond to urgent needs. That person is called for urgent needs of hospital patients and trauma alerts. A Roman Catholic chaplain is available for sacramental needs of Catholic patients at all times. He is assisted by eucharistic ministers, persons specially designated and trained, who help with the delivery of communion. The on-duty chaplain should be alerted whenever a patient or family member requests spiritual visitation. If that chaplain cannot meet the person's need, he or she will contact the appropriate minister, priest, rabbi or faith representative.

Attention to spiritual needs is part of "surpassing excellence in patient care." In crisis, persons struggle with what they value most highly and believe most deeply. Geisinger Medical Center supports ministry to these crucial human needs. Many patients experience painful, frightening and lonely times when faith becomes a major resource for both comfort and healing.

The Chaplain's "Parish"
Chaplains are assigned to patient areas, their "parishes." Each is responsible to develop strategy for appropriate ministry in that setting. Follow up of critical ministry is normally the task of the assigned chaplain. All who are scheduled to work each day gather for morning report to assess emergent needs throughout the medical center.

Each chaplain is expected to develop working relationships with key members of the interdisciplinary team - particularly the social worker, physician, and nurse - to develop effective channels of communication. Hospital personnel who work directly with patients provide vital information about significant patient and family needs. Any employee may make referrals; no special permission is required. Attending physicians may invite chaplains to participate in rounds.

Staff chaplains are team leaders to those spiritual services within the medical center. They are assisted in those clinical areas by chaplain assistants, who provide initial visitation, as well as by students in Geisinger's Extended and Summer CPE programs. Each chaplain has access to a daily patient listing for his or her floor(s). That listing identifies which persons have already been visited by spiritual care personnel. The Spiritual Care Department's consistent strategy is to create and sustain a team approach to ministry, making a vital presence within the medical center and availability to as many Geisinger patients and family members as possible.

Chaplains are students of the Geisinger School of Spiritual Care, and the learning process is supported by appropriate clinical assignment. Rotation of assignments allows residents to receive comprehensive experience. The medical center and its staff, however, see the chaplain as a full member of the patient care team responsible to maintain Geisinger's caring tradition.