MedWatch Today: Chaplain Training Program Offered at Community Regional

Med Watch Today

Community Medical Centers’ chaplains are doing more than just providing emotional and spiritual support every day to patients, their families and staff – they are also training more chaplains for Central Valley hospitals.

Community Regional Medical Center is the only facility in the Central Valley that offers a chaplain residency program – a professional training ground for spiritual care providers to learn healthcare ministry skills.

It’s never easy to be in the hospital, especially through this pandemic. Patients and staff alike can struggle mentally and emotionally through the stress. That’s when chaplains step in.

Ki Do Ahn is the program director of the Clinical Pastoral Residency Program at Community Medical Centers. He said, “Spiritual care is not just standing by, it’s all the power of the holistic care of the patients, and when there’s a lack of spiritual care, patients may feel some of the other areas like depressed, feeling more lonely, feeling more sad.”

Ki Do explains, in the past, if someone in the Central Valley wanted to become an accredited chaplain, they would’ve had to travel to the Bay Area or Los Angeles for a chaplain residency program. Now, there is one offered right here at Community Regional.

“We are the first and only CPE residency program in Central California accredited by ACPE,” continued Ki Do.

Lorena Villa is one of the current “clinical pastoral education” or CPE residents. She was a Spanish language interpreter at Community Regional before she said she found her true passion.

She said, “I found a call in chaplaincy when I would interpret for palliative or end of life family meetings. I found my call there, and I just thought that maybe I could support patients in a different way instead of interpreting.”

Lorena said she’s thrilled this program is offered in a place she already calls home. She feels it’s important now more than ever to offer spiritual support to patients since COVID-19 precautions limit hospital visitors.

“I’ve found that a lot of patients feel isolated, they feel a lot more lonely, they feel anxious. They really want to talk to somebody and to be with somebody that’s going to listen to them,” stated Lorena.

Josh Houston is also one of the CPE residents. He commented, “Being in the hospital during COVID, there’s been a heightened sense of loneliness, and I think that kind of a spiritual weight on the patients, I think what more perfect time to train and learn into the skill set than in a time like COVID.”

Josh was involved in church ministry for more than a decade, but said it wasn’t completely fulfilling his potential to give.

“So much of church ministry these days involve church management. It involves administration and while I can do that stuff, I consider myself far more gifted in spiritual care, spiritual direction, soul care,” stated Josh.

The CPE program is multi-faith and inter-faith, and the chaplains and Community Medical Centers respect diversity. Josh said he looks forward to being a listening ear to all in the hospital.

He continued, “To be able to sit with someone and see them and listen actively listen and hear their story, hear their pain, and hear their loneliness, I don’t know if there’s any moments I’ve had that have been so beautiful and meaningful and potent.”

This accredited program has been in the works since 2018. With approval from the U.S. Department of Education this past May, Ki Do said it can’t come at a better time as the Central Valley suffers from a shortage of chaplains and these chaplains go on to work in hospitals throughout the region.

“I think it’s (a) great service for the Central Valley, so that they can learn from this chaplaincy program and serve the Central Valley. I think that’s really important,” ended Ki Do.

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