South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday February 25, 2020
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December 2017 - Volume 14 - Issue 6

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Baptist Health’s Pastoral Care Department Provides Comfort During Times of Crisis

When people are in times of crisis, they often turn to faith to see them through. This may take the form of organized religion or a more personal kind of spirituality. At Baptist Health, the pastoral care department understands that everyone’s needs are different and are there to support patients, families and staff however they can, every step of the way. 

“We have no agenda other than the patients’ agenda; this is very important to understand,” explained Renato Santos, DMin, BCC, LMCH, assistant vice president for Pastoral Care for Baptist Health South Florida. “We have no intent to proselytize, convert, or lead people toward any particular set of theology. We realize that patients are at a crucial time in their lives and we want to be respectful.”
 
“We offer to listen or answer specific questions, pray or read scripture, or discuss theology,” he continued. “They take the lead. Sometimes we help folks just by being present; by listening to their stories.”
 
According to Chaplain Santos, pastoral care has been part of Baptist Health since its beginning. Each hospital within the system has its own pastoral care department with a site director who is tasked with providing spiritual and religious support to the healthcare community. The department oversees a very comprehensive religious activity schedule, including holding services every week for members of different denominations, as well as prayer meetings and special holiday celebrations. The pastoral care team also visits with patients, performs religious rites, and provides counseling for staff members.  
 
“There are many religious aspects to what we do; for example, we deal with the specific religious needs of Roman Catholic patients for things like confession, anointing, and the sacrament of the sick,” said Chaplain Santos. “But we also understand that spirituality goes beyond religious practices.
 
“Some people are not practicing a set of beliefs, but are very spiritual and reflective. Others may not consider themselves spiritual or religious, but may begin asking important questions about their purpose and meaning,” he continued. “We meet the person where they are, and this means different things to different people. One of our most important tasks in the healthcare environment is to have a presence and help them make meaning of their experience at this time of crisis.”
 
The pastoral care team is available 24 hours a day not only to help patients and their families, but also hospital employees, the medical staff and their families.
 
“Much of what we do for the staff is informal, because the pastoral care team is hardwired into the patient care units; we’re part of the interdisciplinary team,” explained Chaplain Santos. “Through these relationships, we are able to provide a lot of information, counseling and support on a personal level.”
 
The pastoral staff also works with Baptist’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide a formal counseling program. State-licensed therapists offer mental health and family counseling services for employees who need help; for example, when going through a divorce, or suffering from depression or anxiety on the job.
 
“We provide a strong community for the providers so that they can take care of the patients,” said Chaplain Santos. “These things go hand-in-hand.”
 
Santos, who has been a chaplain at Baptist Health for 22 years, feels thankful that the healthcare system provides resources to those seeking spiritual support. “To separate the faith-based mission from pastoral care is almost impossible to do,” he explained. “I feel blessed that Baptist supports the work we do, and creates and maintains resources to support patients, families and staff from an emotional, spiritual and religious standpoint.
 
“They have resources in place at every level of the organization; everyone from the entry level to senior management shows an understanding of our mission,” he added. “A lot of places speak about this holistic approach, but Baptist lives it.”

To learn more about the pastoral care program at Baptist Health, visit www.BaptistHealth.net or call (786) 595-1137. 

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