In 2007, John Turner, PhD, was about to retire from a 30-year career teaching math at the Naval Academy. An active layperson in his church, Turner went to his minister as he contemplated what to do with the next chapter of his life.
“My minister suggested I take the class at the hospital because he had taken it,” Turner says. “So I signed up and got hooked on it. It was so much better than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.”
Turner was recently board certified as a healthcare chaplain by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy (CPSP). To achieve this certification, he completed 1600 hours of advanced classroom training and supervised clinical practice in tending to the spiritual needs of patients and families in the hospital setting. Turner received his training through the Clinical Pastoral Education program offered by Shore Health System. Shore Health System has 18 chaplain volunteers. He is the fourth graduate of this training program to achieve this certification. Larissa Kitenko, Pharm D, Nathaniel Pierce, and Tom Egeberg have also achieved certification.
Chaplains are healthcare specialists who are part of the care team at Shore Health hospitals and outpatient facilities. They work with people who are exploring issues of a spiritual and personal nature. The chaplains also serve as a liaison to the faith community when someone wants to connect with a minister of their religious denomination.
“I’m so proud of the folks in this program,” says Brian Childs, PhD, Director of Ethics and Spiritual Care for Shore Health. “I’m proud of their dedication and their positive ministry to our patients. They also take care of hospital staff members who often face life and death situations in the course of doing their jobs. For example, when there’s a tough time in the emergency room, the chaplains are there.”
Four mornings a week, Turner volunteers his service with psychiatric patients at Shore Behavioral Health Services at Dorchester General Hospital in Cambridge.
“I love it,” Turner says. “It’s extremely inspiring to me to see people who are admitted in such mental distress but find their way out of it. And the amount of care the patients give to each other is astounding.”
“Our chaplains are part of the medical team,” Childs explains. “They go to the team meetings and they are entering information into the patients’ medical records. The clinically trained chaplain approaches the patient from the patient’s own perspective. Our notion is that acute illness is also a spiritual crisis because it brings up the big question: ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ It is not our intention and never would be our intention to impose anything upon the patient. We’re there to help them discuss what is within themselves.”
“Shore Health System’s commitment to the Clinical Pastoral Education program has made this possible,” Childs says. “The entire community benefits as clergy and lay ministers acquire skills that assist them as they guide people of all faiths through a health crisis.”
The Shore Health Clinical Pastoral Education program is accredited by the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and is offered three times a year at Memorial Hospital.
For information about this program and the Shore Health Chaplain Associate program, contact Brian Childs, PhD, Director of Ethics and Spiritual Care, 410-822-1000 ext. 5259. Also visit www.shorehealth.org/services/pastoral.
In photo: John Turner