A community effort

Mr. Jones lies unresponsive on his living room floor when his personal home caregiver arrives. The caregiver calls 911 who notifies emergency medical services. The local ambulance responds. EMS load 84-year-old Mr. Jones into the ambulance and work to stabilize him on the way to the hospital.

Upon arrival at the hospital, EMS take Mr. Jones to a room in the emergency department where they report his background and condition to a group including: doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacists, radiology, respiratory, and lab technicians. Unit desk clerks and registration speak with an understandably concerned and confused Mrs. Jones who just arrived by car with the home caregiver. The nursing supervisor says, “We should call the chaplain.”

A chaplain? What can a chaplain do?

Chaplains provide psychosocial and spiritual support for patients, families, and staff. This means that while the medical team addresses the physical needs of the patient, the chaplain cares for the emotional and spiritual needs presented by the patient, his or her family and friends.

Amid crisis, a chaplain is a calming influence. Trained in making spiritual assessments and addressing the needs of others, chaplains take people where they are — with whatever faith background they embrace — and help them cope with the events of life by drawing on the spiritual values that they hold dear. Chaplains deliver spiritual care in many ways, including:

¯ Provide a nonjudgmental listening ear.

¯ Advocate for the patient.

¯ Participate in family meetings with the medical team, often helping the family to decipher and clarify medical information.

¯ Sit quietly with patients and families.

¯ Hold the hand of a lonely patient.

¯ Provide spiritual counsel, and yes, oftentimes pray, if that is what the patient or family desire.

It Takes a Community

It takes a community to care for the wellbeing of others. Oxford Dictionary defines community as “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” As part of the Lewistown area community, Geisinger desires to care for the whole person — body, mind, and spirit.

Over the years dedicated clergy and laypersons volunteered thousands of hours to provide for the spiritual needs of patients and

families at Lewistown Hospital. To all clergy and spiritual leaders?past and present–we say, “Thank you for giving of yourself to care for the spiritual needs of our community.” Please know that your work has been invaluable to those in the hospital. Geisinger Lewistown hopes to continue this partnership for years to come as we provide coordinated care between local clergy, spiritual leaders, volunteer chaplains, and the staff chaplain.

To local clergy and religious leaders:

¯ Your efforts to visit your people are deeply appreciated. When a patient or family member shares that their pastor visited them, they inevitably do so with a look of satisfaction and a smile.

¯ Chaplains are here to support you as well as your parishioners. The life of a clergyperson is often a juggling act: You cannot be everywhere you want to be sometimes, so please, utilize hospital chaplains.

To patients and families:

¯ If you or a loved one are going to be in the hospital, notify your local faith community. Your church leaders cannot visit you if they do not know where you are.

¯ Please remember that a visit from a spiritual layperson is just as valuable as one from your priest, rabbi, imam, or pastor.

To friends and family:

¯ Call, send notes or cards, and, as long as you are healthy, visit.

¯ Recognize that your loved one may only be able to handle a 5-minute visit, but that visit still means a great deal to them.

¯ Having a loved one in the hospital takes its toll on you as well — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Chaplains are here to support you.

We were created for relationship. We need one another. In times of illness or crisis, chaplains serve as an extension of the local faith community. We can always use more volunteer chaplains. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer chaplain at Geisinger, contact Chaplain Suellen Lewis at: 717-242-7059.


Suellen Lewis is a staff chaplain at Geisinger Lewistown Hospital. As both a former math teacher and associate pastor, she continues to be amazed at how God uses our experiences, abilities, and gifts to minister to others. She is available at Geisinger-Lewistown Hospital Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. contact the Spiritual Care Office at (717) 242-7059.