The Spiritual Side Of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital

Chaplains on call to provide support for patients, families, and workers

might seem a little out of place compared to the other sites in this column. There are no Sunday services, and you’re not going to find it under this site’s listings of religious institutions.

Yet the hospital does have an interfaith chapel for those looking to find a place to pray or reflect. And just as the doctors and nurses are always available, so are the hospital’s chaplains.

Anne Kowalczyk works at the hospital as the director of pastoral care. Bill McGann, a permanent deacon of the Roman Catholic diocese of Norwich, is the Catholic chaplain at the hospital.

“There’s not always a chaplain in the building after hours, but there’s always one on call,” says McGann.

Among the questions asked of patients upon admission is whether they have a faith and wish for clergy to be notified of their hospitalization. During a typical week, Kowalczyk and McGann will see patients for both short and long visits. They try to help patients find strength and comfort, be it through prayer, sacrament, or setting up a visit from their own clergy.

“A lot of times what it really is is taking the patient and patient’s family and getting a sense of what the concern is at the moment,” said Kowalczyk. “Sometimes it’s just having someone in the room who is calm and present and caring.”

The chaplains will also provide support for health care workers in the hospital and the families of patients. Sometimes this extends to being there at the end of someone’s life. McGann said the hospital’s palliative care service keeps them informed about patients who may pass away, while staffers also informally tell the chaplains if this is the case. Kowalczyk gets a notification if an emergency code signals that a patient’s heart has stopped.

McGann says about one-third of the patients who visit the hospital claim they are non-religious or have no regular place of worship. The chaplaincy services are still available to provide support, however.

“There is no place in chaplaincy for evangelizing or proselytizing,” said Kowalczyk. “It’s more about what we can bring into this place to help you.”

In addition to the chaplaincy program, the hospital also takes part in a national service called Clinical Pastoral Education. Volunteers interested in the assisting the chaplaincy program may join this service to “work with staff chaplains as part of an interdisciplinary team in addressing patients' spiritual needs,” according to the hospital’s website.

Kowalczyk says Clinical Pastoral Education consists of about 400 hours of training, of which 100 hours are the education and supervisory process and 300 hours are direct clinical contact with patients.

Anyone interested in Clinical Pastoral Education may contact Kowalczyk at 860-442-0711, extension 2305, or akowalczyk@lmhosp.org.

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