March 24, 2016
Reflective thinking can be challenging. While TriStar Greenview’s chaplains cannot medically treat an illness, they strive to help patients and loved ones cope with illness, injury or death. Chaplains are also a resource for continuum of spiritual care, promoting well-being and wholeness to caregivers. The chaplaincy program consists of eight ministers that respect all faiths, traditions and spiritual practices.
“TriStar Greenview’s pastoral care services is a relatively new program and our chaplains understand the role spirituality can play in our patients’ healthcare experience,” said Mike Sherrod, chief executive officer at TriStar Greenview. “We are thankful for all of the volunteer hours our chaplains provide to be a resource and source of support for our patients and their loved ones.”
The facility did not always have a chaplaincy program in place.
In January 2015, Pastor Andy Toopes was visiting a member of his church that was a patient at TriStar Greenview. Pastor Toopes remembers a woman in a wheelchair making her way over to him to ask if he was a minister. When Pastor Toopes responded yes, she immediately asked if she could be baptized.
Pastor Toopes performed the baptismal ceremony in the patient’s room and went above and beyond to make sure that the patient received optimal care during her time at TriStar Greenview.
After the baptism, Pastor Toopes asked if he could start a chaplaincy program at TriStar Greenview to provide a unique perspective to the healthcare experience.
“The great part about volunteering for TriStar Greenview and being in the Bowling Green community is that ministers get along really well with each other,” said Pastor Toopes. “We are just here to serve the community and that’s what we want to do.”
The chaplains at TriStar Greenview spend a lot of time with the nursing staff trying to help make the patients feel as comfortable as possible. As a team, they want to provide patients with compassionate care and leave an impression on the families by remembering something positive.
“I once saw the same patient every day for three weeks straight. Almost everyone you see is really happy to see you,” said Pastor Toopes. “Some people just really need someone to talk to and to know that someone cares about them.”
Some weeks, Pastor Toopes will meet with up to 15 different patients and their family members.
“My hope is that this program really takes off and becomes an integral part of TriStar Greenview,” said Pastor Toopes. “A year from now, people will think that this program is 20 years old because it will become such a part of the hospital. I have a lot of confidence in the team members that are involved.”
All of the chaplains at TriStar Greenview put their heart and soul into volunteering their time at the hospital. Chaplains go through a rotation where they are on call for the duration of a week. On days where multiple patients or loved ones request spiritual guidance, they all step up to the plate to ensure there is a supportive presence for anyone who is in need. Pastor Toopes believes this is because the chaplains love what they do and just enjoy being with the patients and having fun with them.
While Pastor Toopes felt the calling to be a minister when he was in high school, it was his own personal healthcare experience that really allows him to connect with the patients at TriStar Greenview. Pastor Toopes turned to scripture for comfort for self-reflection while coping with Crohn's Disease and after having his colon and rectum removed.
“I’ve been there. I’ve spent weeks at a time at a hospital,” said Pastor Toopes. “I’ve been in that bed personally. I used to get very self-conscious of the pouch and appliances that you have to wear. But, you know what? I’m alive and in 20 years, I’ve been healthier than I have ever been before.”
When putting himself in the patient's shoes, Pastor Toopes reflects on scriptures that will resonate with the patient’s individual circumstance. But, Pastor Toopes has one favorite reading that he turns to because almost everyone knows it even if they are not a regular church goer - Psalm 23: 1-6.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”