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Breaking boundaries as a staff chaplain

By The Health News Team | March 8, 2024
Chaplain Kelly Ravenscraft at Sharp Grossmont Hospital

Kelly Ravenscraft is one of four chaplains at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, providing guidance to patients through challenging times.

When patients are admitted to the hospital, there are a multitude of thoughts and concerns that go through their minds. Fortunately, chaplains in health care are there to play a key role in providing guidance during these challenging times.

Kelly Ravenscraft, a staff chaplain at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, is one of four chaplains who focus on the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients. Her personal experiences and passion to serve allow her to positively affect those she connects with, including patients, their loved ones and other Sharp team members.

The journey to chaplaincy

Ravenscraft’s journey to becoming a chaplain started in seminary, a religious educational institution, where she was required to take a unit of “clinical pastoral education.” She later completed an internship in Chicago and felt a strong sense of purpose in this field.

“I found myself becoming aware of my own edges, grief history and finding ways to utilize my whole self in delivering care to patients and families,” says Ravenscraft.

In August 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ravenscraft started her career at Sharp Grossmont as a resident chaplain. To become a staff chaplain, she had to complete a year-long residency, 2,000 hours of clinical education, and have a master’s degree in the study of religion and spirituality. Just two years after she started at Sharp Grossmont, she completed her four-year Master of Divinity degree.

The extensive experience she gained from her residency and seminary education allowed her to offer support to patients and families from diverse backgrounds of belief, culture and identity.

“I have quite the journey grappling with my confidence in my role and identity as a young, queer woman in ministry,” Ravenscraft says. “I am grateful for every person who has helped me believe in myself and in my role.”

A day in the life

Ravenscraft excels in challenging situations, finding some of her most fulfilling moments in handling tough cases. She often thinks of the patients who have died and honors them with candles in the hospital chapel. She takes immense pride in contributing to the interdisciplinary team and is always ready to assist whenever necessary.

Regardless of the situation, Ravenscraft offers calm, empathetic, interfaith support to individuals during both their best and worst moments.

One of the challenges Ravenscraft frequently encounters is being the first female chaplain or spiritual figure that a patient or family interacts with. In instances like these, she takes time to understand the patient and have open conversations about how they might review and then re-form their view on women in faith.

“Sometimes we forget that the beliefs we hold in one area of our lives deeply informs other aspects of how we move about the world,” Ravenscraft says. “I am grateful that I have had many opportunities to be an alternative vision of what a chaplain and faith leader can be.”

Ravenscraft acknowledges everyone’s views are different, but she is confident in her own pastoral authority and the compassionate care she provides. She understands that the hospital is an unconventional space for ministry; however, their interactions often inspire people to reevaluate their beliefs. “We are here to sojourn with them, to honor their grief and be a witness to their reality,” she says.

Ravenscraft closely works with people in the intensive care unit, social workers, advanced illness management teams and other teams with complex cases. She says that as chaplains, it’s important to stay well-informed and connected with what is happening in this environment. Rarely are two situations the same in health care, and the experience Ravenscraft has gained allows her to become a valuable team member.

“Anyone involved in patient care at Grossmont can attest to the diversity of situations we attend to daily,” Ravenscraft says. “I cherish the challenge of adjusting between cases to meet people where they are.”

Caring for the caregivers

Ravenscraft’s role extends beyond patients and their families. Along with being a staff chaplain, Ravenscraft is the cochair of Sharp Grossmont’s chapter of the Sharp Equality Alliance (SEA) along with Paul Mugane. The alliance’s mission is to embrace the cultural diversity of Sharp and to celebrate the differences Sharp team members contribute to its culture. In her work, Ravenscraft hopes to foster space for real conversations about what justice is both here at Grossmont and in our world.

Being a SEA cochair is one of a handful of ways Ravenscraft attends to staff. She also hosts Tea for the Soul, an initiative designed to help employees unwind and rejuvenate during their work hours. She understands the significance of caring for the caregivers and makes a point to round or touch base with other team members throughout the hospital.

This not only helps Sharp Grossmont become highly reliable in caring for both patients and team members with a dedication to safety and excellence, but also serves as a tool to build relationships and be a listening ear.

“We know that life does not stop when we are at work attending to difficult cases all day,” Ravenscraft says. “Everyone deserves empathy and compassion for whatever hurdle life may be throwing their way. We also are available to help staff debrief difficult cases and honor all emotions that come with them.”

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Kelly Ravenscraft

Kelly Ravenscraft


Kelly Ravenscraft is a chaplain in the Patient Relations Department at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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