The Coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on so many across the nation, not only physically, but also emotionally according to a new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41-percent of respondents have faced mental health challenges related to COVID-19, in relation to social distancing and stay-at-home orders. About one third of the respondents said they were experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms.
Those who are hospitalized, with or without COVID-19, can experience emotional stress especially now with no visitors allowed per hospital guidelines. At Community Medical Centers, chaplain services are always available to patients, families, and staff to get through the hard times and be a supportive and listening ear.
Sherry Knott, Kevin Rhamie, and Lori Niles are part of the chaplain services team. Like all the healthcare workers in the hospital, they too provide excellent care to patients but their focus is on treating the spirit.
Sherry said, “We go in non-judgmental, non-condemning, go in, and we’re there to walk beside the patient and their family during times that are difficult and sometimes they’re not so stressful or difficult… whether it’s mothers having babies or ICU or emergency or just our med surg patients.”
Sherry is the supervisor of the department and ensures chaplain services are available to all around the clock. When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in the early part of this year, she said they had to think outside of the box on how to continue to help people through an unprecedented and difficult time.
“We’re there, we’re supporting more of our staff, we’re doing morning inspirations for the hospital, and we’re also just being visible with the patients and their families. We’re doing a lot of telecommunications, we’re trying to set up visits with the patients and maybe their religious leaders,” continued Sherry.
Chaplain Lori Niles said she’s seen COVID-19 bring lonliness to many patients.
Lori said, “Ordinarly patients have family there to advocate for them to be present with them to take care of the small needs that they have and during COVID. Of course that’s all changed, and families feel very isolated from one another; so we’ve had the privilege of communicating on behalf of families, facilitating communication through technology, and sometimes even stepping in as almost a surrogate family for patients who are here for long periods of time.”
It’s been difficult for the chaplains to see COVID positive patients, but they still find ways to provide support.
“Sometimes when they’re in rooms that have windows that kind of thing, we’re able to do visual along with our telehealth conferencing with them,” stated Lori.
Kevin Rhamie is the palliative care chaplain at Clovis Community Medical Center and the Community Cancer Institute. He works with patients who deal with chronic illnesses.
“We help them to explore their options and I work with an interdisciplinary team, and we travel as a team. Team is made up of a physician, or a nurse practitioner, a nurse, and a social worker and a chaplain and we work together to deal with the whole person because we believe a person is physical mental and spiritual,” said Kevin.
Palliative care is often times associated with end of life care, but Kevin said there is much more to palliative treatment.
“Especially those patients that are not able to speak for themselves either because mentally they don’t have the capacity or some patients are non-verbal and therefore we have to turn to family members and some family members are prepared to discuss the patient’s wishes, others are not and it’s trying to help them navigate that,” Kevin said.
The chaplains said they’re grateful they can be there for the staff, patients and families, especially through this stressful time.
“It’s really important to be able to see a patient from all aspects of their being and it’s really important to help them feel that the values that they bring in are respected and are going to make a difference in the kind of care that they receive,” ended Lori.