As Office Administrator for the Department of Mission and Pastoral Care, I never know what the day will bring. I have always felt called to service, so while I may not be a chaplain visiting patients, I find ways to serve the patients, family, and staff with whom I come into contact.
In a hospital, you never know what kind of situation might arise, and empathy and compassion are of the utmost importance. The majority of received calls to the office are nurses and other staff requesting that a chaplain visit their patient. I take this opportunity not only to take down the necessary information, but also to reassure them in a pleasant manner that someone will come visit. Without actually realizing it, my hope is that this will put their mind at ease so they can focus on their work. Sometimes the person on the other end of the phone is in distress—perhaps their family member just passed away and they are just now on their way to the hospital. These are the calls that break my heart, and while I may not offer much spiritual comfort, I can offer emotional support and an empathetic ear. We also have people who come to the office for a whole host of reasons, and I consider it my duty to treat each individual with the dignity and respect they deserve, no matter their need or their situation. Some cases are more trying than others, but I have found that a little bit of compassion and a lot of patience can go, well, a long way.
I also try to maintain a ministry of presence to the staff in our office. If someone has been helping a patient through a particularly difficult case, or has just experienced a patient death, I listen and ask questions. I also try to lighten the mood sometimes, be it through making decorations for a person’s desk or organizing staff outings to go bowling or play pool. I have been called ‘the glue that holds the office together,’ and I like to think it’s due to more than ordering supplies or trying to track down a Hindu priest.
I feel very privileged and blessed to work for Georgetown University and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Not every work environment exemplifies ‘cura personalis’ – care for the whole person—and I am very grateful to serve in a place whose mission goes beyond that which can be seen. It is always my hope that I am able to have a positive impact on the lives of those around me, and this position allows me ample opportunities to do just that.
Written by Sarah A. Spinler, Office Administrator, Department of Mission and Pastoral Care