Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Offering Comfort to the Sick and Blessings to Their Healers - New York Times

re: Jan Hoffman article: "...the emergency department at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Upper Manhattan is in full cry... Time for the Rev. Margaret A. Muncie to work the floor. /Not shy, this pastor with the clerical collar, the Ann Taylor blazer and the cheerful insistence of one whose own mother called her a steamroller. Among the first women ordained an Episcopal priest and a self-described “Caucasian minority,” she’s an odd bird among the ethnically diverse staff and especially the patients, most of them black or Latino. But she keeps pecking her head behind curtains, parting gatherings of worried family members, impervious to startled looks of suspicion... / She’s not there to thump. Deftly, she asks people how they’re feeling, then lets them vent their pain and fear, their anxiety and frustration. She nods, a little pushy with her probing... /And always, at the end of a visit: “Would it be all right if I prayed with you?” The health care chaplain will touch a forehead, hold a hand and quietly pray worries to the Divine, speaking with inflections that, as needed, may be Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim... “My job is to be present to patients without judgment,” Chaplain Muncie says... “and to help them find out what is meaningful to guide them through the stress of illness.” /Most health care facilities around the country work with clergy members... Some hospitals merely have a list of on-call pastors; others retain professionally trained, board-certified health care chaplains, like Ms. Muncie, who is the only full-time cleric at St. Luke’s. (The hospital also has a rabbi and an imam part-time, and a supervisory program for theological students.) /These varying levels of commitment have less to do with differing philosophies about spirituality and healing than with the bottom line. Insurance carriers do not reimburse for a chaplain’s salary...[snip]... /Every year, the chaplain performs a “Blessing of the Hands.” She wheels a cart adorned with a tablecloth, flowers, a bowl and an MP3 player. Surgeons, nurses, aides crowd around as she dips their hands in water, blessing their healing work. /Although intercessory praying for the sick has existed since the time of ancient shamans, the chaplain’s role now reflects the impact of modern technology on medicine. In her nearly five years at St. Luke’s, Ms. Muncie has helped mediate “do not resuscitate” decisions, organ donations and bioethics disputes. After a visit, she she puts the details in a patient’s chart..."...

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