Caring for the spirit and soul

By The Health News Team | August 27, 2020
Chaplain Edgar Choc, Chaplain Courtney Mys, Chaplain Resident Andrew Griffice and Chaplain Paul Mugane

From left to right: Chaplain Edgar Choc, Chaplain Courtney Mys, Chaplain Resident Andrew Griffice and Chaplain Paul Mugane. Together, the Spiritual Care team attends to the emotional and spiritual needs of patients, family and staff.

At Sharp Grossmont Hospital, the healing process isn’t just a matter of the medicine given or procedures performed. As a Planetree Gold-Certified facility, the team at Sharp Grossmont sees the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients as a crucial aspect of their care.

Clinical studies show that including chaplains on care teams leads to better decisions about treatments, improved clinical outcomes and enhanced staff morale. Chaplains’ integration into the health care team improves patients’ satisfaction with their hospital stay.

Sharp Grossmont’s Spiritual Care team has four chaplains who are professional clergy trained in all world religions to support patients, family and staff. This role typically requires seven or eight years of training prior to practicing in the field. After receiving a master’s of divinity, clinical chaplains must complete a year-long residency learning how to navigate the health care system. While they may be ordained or licensed clergy of a specific religion, at the hospital they honor all belief systems and cultures.

Sometimes their role is to connect people to their faith through prayer and ritual. Sometimes it is being there for the lonely or celebrating the good news of healing. In other times, it is being present at the loss of a loved one or helping families make health care decisions. While they have needed to adapt their practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their compassion and support is unwavering.

Learn more about Sharp Grossmont’s chaplains Courtney Mys, Edgar Choc and Paul Mugane, as well as chaplain resident Andrew Griffice, and how they support the hospital community.

When did you know you wanted to become a chaplain in a health care setting?
Chaplain Courtney Mys, MDiv, BCC

During my first unit of clinical pastoral education, I fulfilled a seminary requirement for an introductory full-time internship. I loved being with people in faith and health crises, helping them navigate their spiritual journeys to find hope and love during perhaps the worst moments of their lives. It is an honor and a privilege to be invited into another’s personal spiritual journey. I will never forget sitting with a woman one night, at the bedside of her husband, who summed up chaplaincy for me: “I wish I never had to meet you, but I am so glad I did.”

Chaplain Edgar Choc, MDiv
After three years of serving as an associate pastor, I missed the intensity of caring for people on an intimate level. With a master’s in divinity, clinical chaplaincy was a natural fit to help people live their highest good in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Chaplain Paul Mugane, MDiv
I went to seminary with eyes wide open as to what the possibilities of work might be. However, I intentionally chose to attend a seminary that was ecumenical (representing many different Christian churches) to gain exposure to a wide spectrum of religious traditions. The seminary experience lined up well with the pastoral abilities that came naturally to me, such as being at home with diversity in all its manifestations, the draw to be supportive to those enduring pain and suffering, and a capacity to bring a sense of calm and peace to situations of distress and crisis. I think in some way, health care chaplaincy found me or, to put it differently, it lined up well with the path my life has taken.

In your residency, what have you learned on the job that you didn’t learn in school?

Chaplain Resident Andrew Griffice, MDiv
I learned during residency the skill of dealing with the practical, yet important, realities of patients and families. In school, discussions centered on theoretical and highly complex issues. Patients and families in hospitals are usually not focused on dealing with lofty problems; rather, they more often face the absence of basic things that we tend to take for granted. For example, a patient having surgery has not eaten in three days; a husband whose wife has died has just lost his best friend, his bowling partner, his helper around the house; a woman who is sick misses her cats and a greasy cheeseburger. During my residency, I get to practice helping support patients and families who are dealing with practical issues that challenge their emotional well-being.

In addition to their standard duties, Sharp Grossmont chaplains manage programs to enhance the well-being of patients and staff. For example, Paul organizes the Spiritual Care breakfast forums.
The Spiritual Care department hosts a breakfast forum each month for our hospital community. The goal is to provide our staff with opportunities to learn and hone their skills in providing care to a diverse population. Speakers are invited to present topics that contribute information and concrete practices that the health care workers who interact with patients and families can utilize. Topics on self-care and diversity competence are offered frequently.

The Spiritual Care team also supports Sharp Grossmont’s 11th Hour Program.
The 11th Hour Program provides patients with comfort and companionship during the final hours of their life. Many of these patients would otherwise have no one with them. Any staff or family member can initiate the request for an 11th Hour volunteer to be assigned to the patient within the hour as an interfaith presence of compassion.

Finally, Spiritual Care oversees the hospital’s volunteer Eucharistic ministers and baby blessings.
Specially trained lay volunteer Catholic Eucharistic ministers — by the Catholic Diocese of San Diego and the Spiritual Care Department — ensure every Catholic patient can receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion daily, seven days a week (when COVID-19 restrictions are not in place). Dedicated women and men receive an updated Catholic census each morning and divide the hospital unit coverage. Volunteers are trained in how to collaborate with nurses, support both patients and families, and refer those in spiritual crisis to a clinical staff chaplain.

The Baby Blessing Program offers nondenominational blessings for recently arrived little ones at the Women’s Center. Each morning (when COVID-19 restrictions are not in place) staff assess if families of newborns would like to receive a blessing from a specially trained volunteer, who often have been mothers themselves. Volunteers place their hand gently over the newborn and offer the parents a certificate including the written blessing with the child’s name and date of the prayer.

Learn more about spiritual care at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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Courtney Mys

Contributor

Courtney Mys is a chaplain at Sharp Grossmont.

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Edgar Choc

Contributor

Edgar Choc, MDiv, is a chaplain at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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Paul Mugane

Contributor

Paul Mugane, MDiv, is a chaplain at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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Andrew Griffice

Contributor

Andrew Griffice, MDiv, is a chaplain at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.


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