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Hands that help at Timpanogos Regional Hospital get help themselves

By Barbara Christiansen daily Herald - | Mar 25, 2015
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Chaplains perform a "Blessing of the Hands" for hospital staff at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

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Chaplains perform a "Blessing of the Hands" for hospital staff at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

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Chaplains perform a "Blessing of the Hands" for hospital staff at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

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Chaplains perform a "Blessing of the Hands" for hospital staff at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

OREM – Hands perform all kinds of labors, great and small.

The hands being used in hospitals also have a wide range of duties, with the end goal of helping others.

Some of the hands at Timpanogos Regional Hospital got a little help of their own Wednesday with a Blessing of Hands Ceremony to help chaplains and others who use those hands to bless the lives of their patients.

The blessing read by Tiffany Coughran, director of chaplains at the hospital, listed some of the duties performed by the hands. Embracing pain and offering blessing, pushing wheelchairs and steadying walkers, encouraging sagging spirits and lifting weary bodies, touching the downtrodden and distressed with light and love, comforting the dying and honoring the dead, holding the promise of the future, giving loving kindness and unselfish service were included.

Approximately 70 chaplains, administrators and caregivers at the hospital lined up to have their hands washed, dried and anointed with oil for the blessing.

“We want to have everybody aware we have volunteer hospital chaplains,” said Michelle Covington, director of the case management department.

“This really means the hospital is able to provide holistic care — meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the patients. This program really supports our hospital mission, vision and values. One of our values is compassion. We need to learn about, support and respect a patient’s and family’s values.”

Having chaplains at the hospital came about from a hospital staff request.

“The nurses asked for this,” Covington said. “‘We need hospital chaplains — not just for the patients, but for us, too,’ they told us.”

Coughran said a hospital is an appropriate place for a chaplain.

“I feel like [being at] hospitals are such critical emotional times,” she said. “I pulled together chaplains that have either graduated that wanted to volunteer, and students who needed to do service. Each student is required to have 400 volunteer hours every quarter.”

Coughran said students studying to become chaplains each complete five of those quarters for their studies.

The chaplains provide comfort, and sometimes more.

“A family came in to deliver a child and there were complications,” Coughran said. “The infant was placed in their arms with the information the child would not live. A chaplain was brought in to pray with the family. They were in that space for about 45 minutes. The infant started to breathe on her own and came back.

“There are times when we are there to support, but there are also times when miracles happen.”

“We have been here for about two months as a team,” continued Coughran. “We work in the ICU, emergency room, women’s center and with palliative care for those who cannot be healed.

“In a hospital setting people are emotionally and physically vulnerable. It is an opportunity to go into their pain and feel with them. As chaplains our goal is to go ‘into the lake’ with people who are despairing or struggling.”

When a nurse or caregiver identifies a patient with a potential need, he or she presents a printed card to the patient with information about concerns that may arise and an invitation to get help from a chaplain or social worker.

The chaplains are part of the World Spiritual Health Organization, an interfaith, intercultural and interdisciplinary professional association of spiritual care providers from around the world. They study full time for five three-month quarters before they can become licensed.

If they are consulted, they ask the patient questions including what would help them feel comfortable or in what ways they have found strength in the past.

Shelly Eyre, a licensed clinical social worker at Timpanogos Regional Hospital, said having the chaplains is a good idea.

“They each have very amazing gifts,” she said. “Most of us want to be witnessed in our pain. It is OK to feel what we are feeling. There is not a right or a wrong way to grieve.”

She said she appreciates being able to help those in need.

“I have the best job in this place,” Eyre said. “They call me when there is a family in crisis, death or problems when there is hurting going on.

“People come to the hospital when they are in pain. It is a time when you can really make a difference. People are open. I feel very grateful to witness that process.”

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