COVID-19 highlights important role of hospital chaplains

Posted at 6:53 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 19:53:53-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It's a role that's helpful for patients and their families during the toughest of times. Hospital chaplains provide a full range of support needed during this pandemic. But how has COVID-19 changed things for them? Like many others, they're turning to technology.

"We try to be emotionally and spiritually present for all the patients and families and support them that way," said David Sweeney, Staff Chaplain Lead at Nebraska Medicine. "We don't think everybody is religious, but I believe everybody is spiritual.”

Sweeney has seen first hand the impact this pandemic is having, including a COVID-19 related death on Tuesday.

"I couldn't go in the room but the gentlemen who died his wife in there with him," said Sweeney.

Usually, Sweeney would be in the room during moments like that, but coronavirus visitation policies have changed things. So chaplains are turning to technology to get in touch with COVID-19 patients either through video chats or phone calls.

"There's still a lot we can do in terms of listening and talking and processing what's going on with patients' lives," said Patrick Miron, Pastoral Care Manager at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha.

Miron says chaplains have also stepped up in talking with staff. "Just asking them how they're doing checking in, listening, just a lot of times being available.”

That support is greatly needed because since Sweeney couldn't be in that COVID-19 patient's room, nurses and staff stepped up.

"They were not only doing their job for the patient, but they were immense emotional support for the poor wife who's in there alone," said Sweeney.

Sweeney and Miron agree, either through technology or in person, with patients or staff, they're glad to be helping out.

"Especially in those places which are hot spots, people are really stressed and try and understand how these things can happen and relying on their faith to help them find the strength and courage to care for these people in need," said Miron.