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Healing for the body, mind and spirit

Volunteer chaplains help Gritman care for the whole patient


Gritman Medical Center volunteer chaplain Bruce Pitman is often with patients during their most trying and emotional moments.

He may be there to provide comfort and reassurance before or after a major procedure. Or he may find himself in the waiting room of the Emergency Department offering support to a family waiting for updates on a loved one.

It is a privilege and responsibility he does not take lightly.

“We have times when we are literally with them at their darkest moment,” Pitman said. “It is humbling to be allowed in that space, where they are able to share some of their fears and hopes, to be present and hopefully provide some comfort.”

Pitman is one of a dozen members of our volunteer chaplain team dedicated to providing emotional and spiritual support to our patients and their loved ones. The team, facilitated by volunteer coordinator Kim Malm and chaplain leaders Debbie Sperry and Dawn Beamish, was launched in September of 2018 and includes leaders from various faith communities who can be called upon 24/7.

Our staff, nurses and physicians take pride in providing extraordinary care, but visits to the hospital can still be stressful and disruptive experiences for patients and their loved ones. During these times we do all we can to ensure all the needs of our patients, visitors and staff are being met.

“The nursing staff has a specific job to do in terms of the care of patients, but we can sit with someone and hear their stories and talk with them. We are not there as problem-solvers; we are not there as professional counselors – we are there as companions on the journey,” Sperry said. “I want people to know there is somebody here who cares, who can listen, who isn’t judgmental.”

Sperry stressed the chaplains aren’t promoting any particular faith or spiritual tradition. They serve all patients with respect and dignity regardless of religious affiliation, including patients who have no affiliation at all. They are here to serve everyone and the patient always have the right to decline a chaplain visit.

“We are there just to be companions. You don’t have to be Christian, you don’t have to be Methodist, you don’t have to be Catholic, you don’t have to be practicing, you don’t have to be affiliated, you don’t have to be baptized, you don’t have to be Jewish or Hindu,” she said.

Caring for the whole patient — through medicine, wholesome and nutritious food, and nurturing the soul — is another example of how Gritman is living its mission of service to patients and their loved ones.