By Jacob Luecke
In the rush of everyday life, it’s easy to push the biggest questions aside.
Why are we here? Am I living my life the right way? What comes after death?
But when a patient arrives at the hospital, these questions rush to the forefront.
“In the hospital, people have suddenly realized they are mortal,” said Boone Hospital Center Chaplain Chuck Barsamian. “On most days, we feel immortal, invincible — like we can live forever. But, in the hospital we become mortal. That causes patients to ask themselves some very important questions.”
For the last 30 years, Boone Hospital has offered a Spiritual Care service to help people in these situations. As a testament to the importance of this work, Boone Hospital is currently building beautiful new religious amenities for people of all faiths.
The work includes opening a new Christian chapel and an interfaith prayer room.
“It’s going to be wonderful,” said Barbara Weaver, Chair Emeritus of the Boone Hospital Board of Trustees, which is funding the renovations. “We have so many different religions in our community. It will give them all an opportunity to have a special place where they can feel comfortable as they worship.”
Both the chapel and prayer room, opening in 2014, will be located in a quiet space beside the hospital’s Healing Garden.
The prayer room will have religious texts and sacred objects available — such as the Torah, a Buddha statue, an Islamic prayer rug and many other items.
The chapel will be set up to broadcast a live Sunday morning interdenominational Christian service to televisions in the hospital.
Both rooms will be open at all times for patients, visitors, staff and physicians who need a quiet place for prayer and spiritual meditation.
Even with the new rooms available, much of the Spiritual Care work will remain where it always has — at the bedside.
When a patient requests Spiritual Care services, Chaplain Chuck visits his or her room. In their conversation together he might ask them about their personal faith and, if requested, Spiritual Care will work to arrange a visit by their pastor or faith leader.
Sometimes, having your own pastor at your bedside isn’t possible, especially with patients who have traveled long distances to Boone Hospital.
In those cases, Chaplain Chuck will personally work with the patient and help him or her in any way possible. Although he belongs to the Church of the Nazarene, Chaplain Chuck is trained to serve in a nondenominational fashion. He works to help people find peace with their situation.
“I know there is a profound effect from the kind of care we provide,” he said.
Various studies over the last 25 years show that’s the case. Patients who seek out hospital spiritual care are less depressed. Likewise, patients who say they have a strong spiritual wellbeing report a higher quality of life. In several studies, people have said their faith was the most important factor that helped them cope with an illness.
Caring for a hospital’s spiritual needs is an around-the-clock job. Sometimes, it can mean very long hours. But Chaplain Chuck said the satisfaction and joy he gets from his job more than equals his efforts.
As Spiritual Care prepares to begin a new chapter at Boone Hospital, he feels blessed to be part of this community.
“My cup is overflowing,” he said. “After meeting with a patient, and seeing the calm come over them, it is just the sense of, ‘Wow, God used me for that.’ There is so much to this work that is a blessing.”