Friday, 07 June 2013 13:25

Chaplaincy program provides spiritual care to patients at Cypress Regional Hospital

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Chaplain Alex Allan of the Cypress Health Region Chaplain Services chats with staff in the Cypress Regional Hospital. From left to right, Alex Allan, Pat Klein, Stephanie Ebner, Samantha Howard and Clayton Ewen. Chaplain Alex Allan of the Cypress Health Region Chaplain Services chats with staff in the Cypress Regional Hospital. From left to right, Alex Allan, Pat Klein, Stephanie Ebner, Samantha Howard and Clayton Ewen. Matthew Liebenberg/Prairie Post

Coping with an illness can be a challenging time for patients and their families, but at the Cypress Regional Hospital a chaplaincy program is available to provide them with spiritual and emotional support.


This voluntary program started in February 2012 as a a one-year pilot project at the Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current and the Cypress Health Region has renewed the agreement for another five years.

Cypress Regional Hospital Director Anita Sagadahl has received positive feedback from staff about the program and many patients are making use of it.

“It has been identified over the years that in order to provide holistic care for a patient you need to meet all of their needs and that would include spiritual needs,” she said.

The implementation of the program has made it possible to meet patient requests for pastoral care in a more coordinated manner.

“Prior to the chaplaincy program it was done on a case by case,” she said. “If somebody requested it we would certainly try and access whatever faith was required but having the chaplaincy program in place just allows us to meet the needs of everyone in the hospital at different times during their stay.”

Chaplains Alex Allan and Bob Cappelle are responsible for coordinating spiritual care requests from patients or their family members. They will inform faith community leaders about requests for their presence and the chaplains will provide the care for people who do not belong to a specific faith community.

“We provide what's really called a ministry of presence,” Allan said. “It's not so much what we say, it's that we're there.”

He emphasized the program is providing spiritual support to people from all faith communities and not only those from the Christian faith.

“From the chaplain's perspective the chaplain has to learn to work with people from different faiths without compromising his,” he said. “So it doesn't matter to me what faith community a person is from. I'm there with them in that moment when they need someone. Sometimes it's a listening ear, sometimes it's a word of encouragement, sometimes I'll hold a hand.”

According to Allan the program receives around 300 requests every month for spiritual care, of which most are forwarded to faith community leaders. He and Cappelle will personally visit about 40 patients every month.

“Sometimes we'll be here in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes we're here after hours but we do provide a 24/7 availability if somebody needs chaplaincy services,” Allan said.

He has a lot of praise for the care provided by the hospital's medical staff, but the chaplains have more time to visit with patients.

“We have really good medical staff at the hospital, but they're busy with several patients,” he said. “Where the spiritual caregiver can make a difference is we can sit down and visit with people.”

The needs of patients and their family members will vary. Sometimes people just want to talk to someone about their illness.

“Maybe they just got a diagnosis that's not sitting well with them,” he said. “They share and it doesn't change anything but what it does do for them is it gives them a chance to express themselves.”

In other cases a patient has nobody to visit them and the chaplains will then spend time with them on a regular basis.

“Maybe it's a family member that's just struggling with what the patient is going through,” he added. “We're here to listen to them as well.”

According to Allan it is a privilege to be invited into the personal lives of people who trust a chaplain during their hour of need.

“Sometimes things people tell me are amazing because they trust the chaplain and so that in itself is rewarding when people feel comfortable and confident,” he said.

Shannon Frederick is the volunteer services coordinator for Cypress Health Region. She has regular contact with the spiritual care volunteers from the different faith communities who are registered to provide support to patients in the Cypress Regional Hospital.

“They're all quite excited about the project,” she said. “They're glad of the process in that they get information quite quickly as to who is in hospital asking for visits”

United Church Minister Jim MacNaughton is responsible for pastoral care in the communities of Kyle and Elrose, which means he might not always be able to visit congregation members in Cypress Regional Hospital.

The chaplaincy program keeps him informed about United Church members who are in hospital and he has received positive comments from people who received visits from Allan.

“Alex, while from a more evangelical faith background than mine, treats all people with a great deal of love, empathy and respect and I could ask for nothing more than that,” MacNaughton said.

Pastor Linda Hall of the Southwest Lutheran Parish said the partnership between the chaplain and local clergy is working well.

“A hospital stay can be filled with much anxiety and uncertainty as well as times of joy and thanksgiving,” she said. “The consistent presence of a chaplain brings a spiritual caring refuge in those times. I appreciate this consistency.”

Pastor Joy Frenette of the Salem Lutheran Church in Shaunavon said without the chaplaincy program she might not even know when a congregation member is in the hospital. She also appreciates the chaplain visits when she is unable to travel to Swift Current.

“This is important as it can get pretty lonely for the patient since family is back here in Shaunavon and can't always be traveling in each day,” she said.

Janet Neubauer is one of the pastoral care givers at St. Stephen's Anglican Church in Swift Current.

“We receive timely information of Anglicans in hospital and can schedule a visit quickly,” she said.

The chaplains also provide support when Anglican clergy might not be available. She recalled a recent situation when one of their parishioners was in hospital with terminal cancer.

“Alex didn't hesitate and he was there to read Scripture and pray with our parishioner and his family just moments before he died,” she said. “At a very sad and stressful time, it was indeed a blessing and a comfort to have the hospital chaplaincy available at the Cypress Regional Hospital.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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