Throughout its history, Mayo Clinic has worked to heal not only the bodies of its patients, but also their hearts. Hospital chaplains have been available to patients and visitors to listen and offer spiritual and emotional support. They accompany those in crisis or grief, share prayer and sacraments, and lead worship services. Chaplains are also there to reflect and consult on ethical concerns and decisions.
And even in the face of COVID-19, Rev. Elizabeth (BJ) Larson, chair of Mayo Clinic Chaplain Services in Rochester, says that work hasn't changed. It just looks different, as does the work of many of us right now. "Our core work with patient care remains the same — it's just being done with increased safety in mind," she says. In-person gatherings for religious services have been canceled and instead are being broadcast on Mayo Clinic TV Network.
They're also "working on new spiritual communion and spiritual care cards that we can give out to patients and staff," Larson tells us, and relying on technology to help them maintain increasingly important and meaningful connections with patients and families across Mayo Clinic. "If we can no longer do our work primarily face-to-face, or if we need to do it at a distance without physical touch or close proximity, we'll use telephones and iPads to connect with families and/or the patient to provide a resource, a reflection, music therapy — something they don't have ease of access to, but that can be meaningful," Larson says.
Chaplain Services' care and support is also extending to the Mayo Clinic staff as well. "Staff care is a huge part of our work right now," Larson says. "There are many ongoing needs."
And many ongoing ways in which Chaplain Services is trying to meet those needs. Through a staff care workgroup that's an outgrowth of Mayo's Healthcare Incident Command System, Chaplain Services is looking for ways to connect with staff virtually. "We're also part of a team that's called Support Our Staff, and we're working on delivering care kits to inpatient areas that include things like tea and chocolate, lavender oil, and some written resources including notes of gratitude. We set up reflective spaces and leave them in units for a day or two to give staff time to find them and to give them ideas for how they might find the support they need right now."
Even though the methods in which they serve patients and staff have changed due to COVID-19, Larson tells us one thing will not change: the goal of that work. "Our purpose is to inspire hope," she says. "Everyone has a story to tell you right now about who they're concerned about and their own fears and anxieties related to this time. As humans we're often focused on what's not available, what's changed, what isn't here at the moment. When we can be supported in telling our stories, experiencing connections, and engaging values, beliefs and inner strengths, we may discover that we have more to sustain us and our communities than we first thought."
Requests for spiritual care needs at Mayo Clinic can be made by contacting Chaplain Services.
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