Serious illness and life-threatening injury frighten patients and their families and can isolate them from their support communities when they need them most. Compassion and comfort become important when illness is chronic or incurable. Since the 1950's, offering spiritual care and emotional support during a medical emergency, when facing surgery or chronic illness, and at the time of death, has been one of Parkland's highest priorities.
Parkland's Pastoral Care Department provides interfaith spiritual care and pastoral support to inpatients, outpatients, emergency and trauma patients, families, and hospital staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also provides first class, hands-on training to many future chaplains and spiritual leaders who will serve in Dallas and beyond.
Between 700,000 - 800,000 pastoral care visits are conducted annually.
This is accomplished with a small full-time staff as well as staff through Parkland's Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) program, the first of its kind in North Texas, which provides intensive training to post-graduate level ministerial students. This program is integral to Pastoral Care services. Without it, Parkland could not provide the care needed by those it serves. It is also very cost effective because the student residents, who are paid a small stipend, provide much needed services including the bulk of the on-call visits during the weekends and evenings.
An important value of Pastoral Care at Parkland is to respect the uniqueness and diversity of each person's faith tradition and faith practices. Parkland firmly subscribes to a model of "servant leadership" that views the bedside of patients as the gateway to a privileged education about life, death, and what it means to be human. The objectives of the Pastoral Care Department are to:
- Offer patient-centered, patient valued care rooted in our convictions concerning the worth and dignity of all persons.
- Provide a liaison between the hospital and the religious community, including cooperating with local clergy in the care of their hospitalized parishioners.
- Offer pastoral services to patients, their families, and those significant to them.
- Offer crisis intervention, supportive counsel, and continuing education resources to Parkland employees.
- Provide medical ethics resources to staff, patients, and families.
- Provide Parkland's program of Clinical Pastoral Education with two levels of training and three types of programs.
- Encourage and sponsor educational resources for the religious community.
- Function as a spiritual care coordinator on interdisciplinary teams and programs.
- Ensure that decedent care services are provided.
- Ensure that the advance directives program functions according to policy.
While pastoral care services are provided to all who need them most at Parkland, more could be done. Pastoral Care staff is stretched beyond capacity. If a patient comes to Parkland and needs spiritual care in a crisis, Pastoral Care is there to help. If not in a crisis situation, the patient or family may not get the emotional support needed.
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